Sunday, April 20, 2014

Book review of 'White Mughals' by William Dalrymple

I originally posted this review on my Goodreads page here:

The book is set in that window of Indian history which sees the Mughal influence wane and the British colonial culture rise. The action is set in Hyderabad and briefly shifts to Calcutta before moving south again. The dramatis personae include a soldier and diplomat of the East India Company who falls in love not only with the culture and tradition of 'Hindoostan' but also with a beautiful begum. The affair, and later the marriage, gives rise to a scandal which shakes the foundations of the British diplomatic relations with Hyderabad. But behind the court intrigue and the scandal lies the world of love, romance, beautiful architecture and the happy meeting ground of the East and the West.

William Dalrymple is a master storyteller, and one can only wish he narrates more such tales about India's history. The drab history textbooks of school are an utterly poor comparison to the books that he writes, simply because of his ability to transport us back to the world of kings and queens, sahibs and begums, of tehzeeb, and a world where letters were written to loved ones. The sights and sounds of Deccani culture come alive in front of the reader, and that in itself is as great a compliment as I can give this author.

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