Book review: The Twentieth Wife, a novel by Indu Sundaresan

Rating: ✰ ✰ ✰

The Review

Set in the backdrop of 16th – 17th century India, this debut novel by Indu is a captivating story of one of the most legendary empresses of Mughal empire. The journey of a baby girl named Mehrunissa who became the queen of Mughal Empire and wife of King Jahangir who was later named Nur Jahan. The book takes you through the enchanting history of the Mughal empire, the romance, the fairy tale that leads up to the wedding and the battles within the family to gain the throne of power and domination.

Born in 1577 to Mirza Ghias Beg, a Persian refugee who sparked a miraculous reversal of family fortune by birth of Mehrunissa ‘Sun among the Women’. Raised in Akbar’s court, her beauty, brains and conversations make her a part of the imperial harem led by Queen Ruqqaya, chief wife of King Akbar. Her encounter with Prince Salim on his wedding day (although he was married to three other women and had children), Mehrunnisa foresees the path of her own destiny to be the queen. But, fate had a different turn planned for them. Separated by political decision and an unwilling marriage to Ali Quli Khan a soldier, who was as old as her father.


In the years that passed by, she gives birth to Ladli, her only daughter and looses her husband over a political fight. Although the love and respect for each other never made them forget their faces. When she comes back to the harem, the incidents that lead up to the meeting with the now King Jahangir (Prince Salim) that leads up to the wedding in 1611, honouring her as his twentieth wife, Nur Jahan.

The story and the historical facts are truly fascinating and will leave you hooked on to it. But the style of writing somehow isn’t the best you’ll read and the story deviates away from their passionate romance to the fight for the throne. If the history and the era don’t captivate you, then you would probably quit reading it midway. Since I am history lover and the stories of such era fascinate me, hence it kept me hooked on through the agonising journey.

Kudos to her for the research, although like most historical fiction, she does take the authors liberty with plot and characterization, but still aspire to be factually accurate as much as possible. I would say worth a read!

Click here to get your copy of the book The Indu Sundaresan Collection: The Twentieth Wife, Feast of Roses, and Shadow Princess

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