Book Title: The Mulberry Courtesan
Author: Sikeena Karmali
Total Number of Pages: 270
Publisher: Aleph Book Company
Publication Date: July 2018
Genre: Historical Fiction
‘The Mulberry Courtesan’ is set around 1857 when the Mughal Empire was counting its last days of ruling the country. It’s the time when the East India Company had already invaded the country and was setting up it’s empire. It was during this time that India saw its first revolt against the Britishers. The book features Bahadur Shah Zafar, the last person of the Mughal dynasty who was being exiled at that time.
It is somewhere between the 1852 to 1857 that the complete story takes place. At the heart of the storyline is a bold and brazen girl, Laale. Laale, a young 19-year-old who had her wedding planned out suddenly get abducted from her home by a British sepoy to be sold off to the Mughals. On the night of her abduction, she gets raped by the sepoy but she doesn’t let him live for long. Thus begins Laale’s journey where she begins to live a new life, where she often times finds herself at a loss of control over her own choices but as she grows into a woman, she starts to own herself as a courtesan, from a naïve little girl to a brave woman.
‘The Mulberry Courtesan’ also gives us a glimpse into the life of Bahadur Shah Zafar, a weary old man who was counting his last days of freedom. The contrast between Zafar, old and weary; and Laale, young and vivacious, is beautifully presented in the narrative. There’s also a romance between the central characters. This epic tale is quite tragic.
I loved reading about the characters. They were full of life and expressed themselves so well that I couldn’t stop myself from feeling along with them. Sikeena Karmali has a very engaging, lyrical style of writing which I loved. It was like poetry written as prose. The descriptions of the Mughal empire with all its glitters and glam and the majestic forts that hides so much in them, Sikeena Karmali has captured the Mughal essence with her writing.
I loved the writing and the story but when it comes to the historical timelines, that wasn’t very clear to me. At times I felt that there weren’t the need of certain characters and that they didn’t have anything to add to the storyline. There were a few glitches here and there but nothing that a round of editing cannot fix!
The historical timelines might not be perfect but the narrative is beautiful. Loved the story and the characters.
Read it if you like historical fiction.
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