17 January, 2014

#BookReview :: Love and Death in the Middle Kingdom by Nalini Rajan

A sixteenthcentury Vijayanagara courtier, Devadatta is drawn into a strange and intoxicating, even forbidden, friendship with a Persian traveller and a Portuguese trader. In a society driven by caste centred norms and pollution taboos, the stealthy love affair between the courtier and the Persian must lead them inevitably into a horrific doom. Centuries later, the courtiers diary, is discovered quite by chance in the Indian west coast town of Honavar by a student of History, Sharat, who translates the tale from its native tongue to English. Along with his female colleague Nitya, from Delhi University, he sets out on an exciting journey into history through the pages of the diary. What happens thereafter proves to be not only a voyage of self discovery but also an exploration of some of the meanings and lessons in history, in life. 

Love and Death in the Middle Kingdom is the story of Devadatta and Farjad told through Devadatta’s diary which is discovered centuries later and ends up in the hands of Sharat and Nitya. 

Nitya is sent to Hanovar by her professor to check out an ancient courtier’s diary. There she meets Sharat and the two of them work on the diary together to discover surprising facts about Devadatta’s life and about the society back then. Devadatta had also penned down his everyday life, their culture, the traditions and his relationships with Gulabi and Farjad. But as a reader could guess, homosexuality is hardly accepted in India in the 21st century, so it was unthinkable back then and Devadatta had been exiled.

On one hand we have parts from the diary and then there is Sharat and Nitya’s take on it. As the story progresses the reader is plagued by the thoughts of Devadatta, Farjad and Gulabi’s fate. There’s a hint of budding romance between Sharat & Nitya too. 

The highlight of this book is its plot. I think that it was really bold of the author to pick a controversial topic that will not be accepted widely and may or may not be received well in this country. Besides that, I really liked the way she portrayed Devadatta & Farjad’s love. The descriptions in the book, particularly those about Vijaynagara, have been done well. They painted a vivid picture of the kingdom in my mind and when I did look up a few things on the internet, they matched what I had imagined while reading the book. The characters in the book are well fleshed out with particular parts to play – specially my male namesake Devadatta ;) The climax was bit of a letdown where I felt that it could not really live up to the buildup it got.

All in all, this book has great potential and a lot to offer.

About the Author

Tour Stops
10th January - A Review by Amrita Kanjilal @ Rivers I Have Known - Books, Reviews & More
17th January - My Review here @ b00k r3vi3ws
24th January -  A Review by Sudeshna Thakurta @ Proses, Verses & Conversations

Find out More on the Publisher's Website

Thanks to Alchemy Publishers, we are giving away 1 copy of this book to a lucky winner from India.
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  1. The cover is AMAZING!! One of the best covers I have seen in a long time! Hope I get a chance to read it!