Genre: Historical Fiction, India
Reading Challenges: 30 for 100+ in 2009

Let me begin my review by thanking Marcia at The Printed Page for recommending this book. If you haven't visited her blog, you are in for a treat!

I have long been fascinated by the Taj Mahal. It is truly an architectural marvel, and I dream of visiting it one day. Beneath a Marble Sky is fiction, so I am unsure of how much of its depiction of either the construction of the Taj Mahal or Indian culture is authentic, but the book did increase my admiration for this amazing building. Also, it is just a really good book!

Beneath a Marble Sky is a love story, as well as a family saga. The story is told by Princess Jahanara, my favorite kind of heroine, a feisty and brave beauty who is anything but content to be simply an ornament. After the death of her beautiful mother, Jahanara's father commissions the creation of the Taj Mahal to honor her memory and comfort his broken heart. While Jahanara finds love unexpectedly with the architect of the Taj Mahal, her brothers Dara and Aurangzeb begin to tear the country apart as the religious tensions of Muslim and Hindu begin to escalate. Jahanara is forced to choose sides, and soon finds herself facing not only imprisonment, but death as she seeks to save those who are dearest to her.

I really enjoyed this book. It is full of action, unexpected plot twists, court intrigue, and some romantic moments. While I loved Jahanara's strong character, for me it was also at times a weak point in the novel, as I found myself wondering if her actions were plausible in her time and culture. Eventually, I decided I didn't care as the book would have been less enjoyable without her. I also appreciated that the romantic scenes are more innuendo than outright description. If you enjoy historical fiction, this is both a fun and interesting read.

I loved this poem that was reprinted in the book. It is one of my favorites by Rabindranath Tagore.

You know, Shah Jahan, life and youth,
wealth and glory,
they all drift away in the current of time.
You strove, therefore, to perpetuate only
the sorrow of your heart.
Let the splendor of diamond, pearl and
ruby vanish.
Only let this one teardrop, this
Taj Mahal,
glisten spotlessly bright on the cheek
of time,
forever and ever.
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