Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Last Queen of India by Michelle Moran

Rating 4 out of 5
File Size: 515 KB
Print Length: 368 pages
Publisher: Quercus (2 April 2015)
Language: English

1857, India. At nineteen years old, Sita is the shining star of Queen Lakshmi of India's imperial guard, having pledged herself to a life of celibacy in the name of protecting the young ruler. When Sita agrees to train Lakshmi in the art of military combat, a close friendship develops between the two women. But trouble soon threatens - Lakshmi's court is dangerously divided and rumours are rife that the country is at risk. Meanwhile, in London, advisors to Queen Victoria are looking to extend the power of the Commonwealth, and India is coveted as the next jewel in the imperial crown. In the ensuing battle, will the bond between Lakshmi and Sita be broken for ever?

Michelle Moran is by far my favourite historical fiction author at the moment. She has a knack for writing about women in history whose stories are not well known to Western cultures. Madame Tussaud and Napoleons second wife Marie-Louise being prime examples. Her books are always very well researched with only slight deviations to the actual time line of events.
This book tells the story of India's Queen Lakshimi of Jhansi from the point of view of her guard Sita. While the focus is on Sita and her life it surrounds the Queen and we get great insight into the Queens life and events during her last year's of reign and the rebellion that she helped lead.

First Sita is a wonderful character. I just adored her and I'm pretty sure it's not just because she is a reader and had some wonderful lines about reading. She is intelligent, caring, practical, athletic and dedicated. It was easy to connect with her and follow her story.

The Queen herself was fascinating and her story sad and inspiring at the same time. Sad knowing that all her efforts to resolve the situation peacefully with England were for nothing. England wanted it's India jewel and it was going to get it. Inspiring because she still tried and tried again, never giving up the hope that she could save her people and Kingdom.

It was really difficult to read the struggles that women faced in India then, and I know in some areas, still do today. Sita's upbringing is particularly horrible, made worse by her awful Grandmother. But I understand better the hurdles the women in India have had to overcome to get the level of freedom many currently have. 

It was also difficult to read about the truly horrific acts of cruelty displayed by both the British army and the rebels. Slaughtering so many innocents because they could, and justifying it by saying "they did it first". Then the cultural insensitivity displayed by the British at the time is also awful (such as opening a butchers next to a Hindu temple).

This was a wonderfully written book with Moran bringing to life on the pages the world Sita lived in, while highlighting Indian culture (both good and bad), and bringing to life an important historical figure.

Hands down this is probably my second all time favourite Moran book and highly recommend it.

Previously reviewed Michelle Moran books

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