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Beneath a Marble Sky

Beneath a Marble Sky

4.5 79
by John Shors

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Journey to dazzling seventeenth-century Hindustan, where the reigning emperor, consumed with grief over the tragic death of his beloved wife, commissioned the building of a grand mausoleum as a testament to the marvel of their love. This monument would soon become known as the Taj Mahal—a sight famous around the world for its beauty and the emotions it


Journey to dazzling seventeenth-century Hindustan, where the reigning emperor, consumed with grief over the tragic death of his beloved wife, commissioned the building of a grand mausoleum as a testament to the marvel of their love. This monument would soon become known as the Taj Mahal—a sight famous around the world for its beauty and the emotions it symbolizes.

Princess Jahanara, the courageous daughter of the emperor and his wife, recounts their mesmerizing tale, while sharing her own parallel story of forbidden love with the celebrated architect of the Taj Mahal. Set during a time of unimaginable wealth and power, murderous sibling rivalries, and cruel despotism, this impressive novel sweeps you away to a historical Hindustan brimming with action and intrigue in an era when, alongside the brutalities of war and oppression, architecture and the art of love and passion reached a pinnacle of perfection.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Shors's spirited debut novel tells the story of the eldest daughter of the 17th-century emperor who built the Taj Mahal. From her self-imposed exile, Jahanara recalls growing up in the Red Fort; the devotion her parents, Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal, had for each other; and the events that took place during the construction of the fabulous monument to their love. Although Jahan is the emperor and has many wives, Mumtaz (he calls her Taj) is his soul mate, a constant companion and wise political consultant. She even travels with him into battle, where she eventually dies giving birth to their 14th child. Fortunately, she has the foresight to begin preparing her favorite daughter, Jahanara, by instructing the girl in the arts of influence and political strategy. Thus the young woman is able to pick up where her savvy mother left off. From then on it is Jahanara who advises the emperor, often instead of her dreamy brother, Dara, who is the rightful heir to the throne. It is she who helps with construction of the magnificent mausoleum for Mumtaz's remains and who falls in love with its architect, Isa, a man whom she can never marry. And it is she who leads a failed effort to defend the throne against a coup by her evil brother, Aurangzeb. With infectious enthusiasm and just enough careful attention to detail, Shors give a real sense of the times, bringing the world of imperial Hindustan and its royal inhabitants to vivid life. (May 28) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
In his debut, Shors offers a glimpse into the politics and intrigue of the 17th-century court of India during and after the construction of the Taj Mahal as a mausoleum for the beloved wife of Mughul emperor Shah Jahan. Told through the eyes of the emperor's daughter, the story contrasts the opulence of the court with the desperate poverty of the citizens; we also see the influence of women on political decisions and the perpetual tensions between religious fundamentalism and tolerance. The book is a thrilling tale of the interactions of characters recognizable for their loyalty, duplicity, and passion and will appeal to a wide audience. The author has included enough accurate details to make regular readers of historical fiction happy, too. Highly recommended for all libraries.-Kim Uden Rutter, Antioch, IL Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A woman's take on the famous monument as the Emperor's daughter recalls her part in its construction and her survival through treachery and war. With lively period detail and a surfeit of villains, the story that Princess Jahanara reveals to her two granddaughters is a hyperactive saga where plot trumps insight. Now an old woman, Jahanara, thinking it time to tell the two girls the truth about their lineage, returns to the past to explain why they have been kept ignorant of their imperial connections. Her childhood was happy; her mother, Mumtaz Mahal, was not only adored by her father, the Emperor Shah Jehan, but she was frequently consulted in matters of state. She was especially close to Jahanara, with whom she shared her insights into statecraft, but when she died in childbirth, the family began to disintegrate. Jehan's grief was such that he failed to discipline son Aurangzeb, a brutal warmonger who resented brother Dara, the presumptive heir, and allowed Jahanara to marry Khondamir, a coarse and abusive trader. Obsessed with building a memorial to his wife, Jehan began the construction of the Taj Mahal on the banks of the nearby river. Soon Jahanara is not only helping with the construction but is in love with the architect, Isa. Contrite about her unhappy marriage, the Emperor encourages her to have a secret affair with Isa, and she bears a daughter, Arjumand. But the times are dangerous, and Aurangzeb is not only an ambitious, religious bigot but especially suspicious of Jahanara, whom he fears wants to kill him. He imprisons Jahanara and her father, the Emperor, in the Red Fort; Isa and Arjumand flee, only to be enslaved by a rival sultan; and Jahanara is raped in prison bytreacherous Khondamir. Wars and betrayals are commonplace as Aurangzeb fights to consolidate his succession, and Jahanara must endure much travail before she finds a safe haven. An overly action-packed debut, but agreeably colorful nonetheless.

Product Details

McPherson & Company
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.80(d)

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
“[A] spirited debut novel ...With infectious enthusiasm and just enough careful attention to detail, Shors gives a real sense of the times, bringing the world of imperial Hindustan and its royal inhabitants to vivid life.”—Publishers Weekly

“Jahanara is a beguiling heroine whom readers will come to love; none of today’s chick-lit heroines can match her dignity, fortitude and cunning…Elegant, often lyrical, writing distinguishes this literary fiction from the genre known as historical romance. It is truly a work of art, rare in a debut novel.”—The Des Moines Register

“An exceptional work of fiction...A gripping account.”—India Post

Beneath a Marble Sky is a passionate, lush, and dramatic novel, rich with a sense of place. John Shors is an author of sweeping imaginative force.”—Sandra Gulland, author of The Josephine B. Trilogy

“[A] story of romance and passion…A wonderful book if you want to escape to a foreign land while relaxing in your porch swing.”—St. Petersburg Times

Meet the Author

John Shors traveled extensively throughout Asia after graduating from Colorado College in 1991, living for several years in Japan, where he taught English, and then trekking across the continent, visiting ten countries and climbing the Himalayas. More recently, Mr. Shors worked as a newspaper reporter in his hometown, Des Moines, Iowa, before entering public relations and moving to Boulder, Colorado. Beneath a Marble Sky is his first novel.

Brief Biography

Boulder, Colorado
Date of Birth:
March 4, 1969
Place of Birth:
Des Moines, Iowa
B.A. in English, Colorado College, 1991

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Beneath a Marble Sky 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 79 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Since Arthur Golden's Memoirs of a Geisha and Tracy Chevalier's Girl With a Pearl Earring, I have been on a constant search for a romantic historical novel written with depth, poetic language, a female protagonist, and an antropologic view of a foreign society. This epic novel exceeds expectations in all of the categories - when I finished it, I felt as if the character development was flawless, non-cliche and I learned [although this is not a textbook in any way] a lot about 1600's Indian society. This book is outstanding. STRONGLY recommended.
ksvl More than 1 year ago
I read this amazing book recently and have to say it is among the top books I have read. I truly felt I was on this wonderful journey with the characters and saw the Taj Mahal being built. It was such a great love story between Jahanara, the youngest daughter of Sha Jahan and Isa, the architect of the Taj Mahal and the visuals laid out in the book were remarkable. I did not want the book to end because I wanted to read more about the Taj Mahal. If there was anything missing for me it was that there weren't pictures in the book showing the beauty of this part of Hindustan and the Taj Mahal. I sent an email to the author, John Shors after reading this book to tell him how much I enjoyed reading it and I was pleasantly surprised to receive a response to my email. He was gracious and thanked me for letting him know how much I enjoyed his book. I have definitely recommended this to my friends.
Tigerkitty More than 1 year ago
This is a believable story of forbidden romance. John Shors includes everything in this book: romance, danger, sadness, happiness, suspense, and intrigue. The plot flows well and spans over decades. It tells a tale of the forbidden love between the architect of the Taj Mahal and a princess of India. I loved the attention to detail and the beautiful imagery painted by Shors' words. The events in the story are not over the top, but are believable. "Beneath a Marble Sky" is a page turner and I could not put the book down. Parts of the book are more adult oriented in nature, but even those parts are tastefully written. Overall, I loved this book and would highly recommend reading it to anyone who loves historical, romantic, thrilling, suspenseful, and believable novels.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a story about true love, ones duty, perseverance, and more. It is so engrossing I couldn't put it down. I have given it as a gift to several friends, all of whom loved it. It will stay on my bookshelf forever - It's one I could re-read and not tire of it. So compelling!
Paloma More than 1 year ago
I could not! put this fantastic novel down for three days. It found me at a local used bookstore (sorry B&N!), and I was captivated from the first sentence. Shors graces us with not only a beautiful story, beautiful scenery, and beautiful characters, but also with strong women. Each charter lives her/his own life, making decisions that lead them down paths that they were meant to travel. It is historical fiction, and Shors points out that he is making that artistic leap of faith in several regards. It works because Shors connects the reality of the Taj Mahal, in all its splendor and all its incredible building materials and manpower, to its designer and women of inspiration, to the human condition. Yes, the human condition. Historical fiction does not work if the characters are not sufficiently credible to appear real throughout every page of the book. I laughed. I cried. This book made my impossible to make bookshelf. It is a keeper, it will be reread. Bravo Mr. Shors!
snowbird922 More than 1 year ago
Beautifully written Shors captures us with Jahanara's sense of duty and love for her family. I was actually surprised at how perceptive he was to the female's point of view on how far a woman would go to protect and honor those she loves. This book although fiction hit home for me on many of my own beliefs and I enjoyed immensely going through the motions as Jahanara was faced with her most difficult decisions. I think this is the perfect book for a readers club.
GadgetgirlKS More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed reading this book and highly recommend it to my friends and family.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this novel in the span of a day. I just couldn't put it down! At times, you will cry, others, you will laugh, and sometimes even cringe at the hardships the characters must overcome to find peace in the end. I must say that Aurangzeb truly frightened me, and that the vivid painting of the Taj Mahal brought it before my eyes in all of its splendor, as if I was witnessing its birth. Wonderful book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book. It is a quick read and a nice story. It reminded me of the Red Tent, which I loved.
bookhog More than 1 year ago
The heroine is strong and determined in the face of old traditions and loyalty to family. A look into a world of brutality and deep emotions, betrayal, friendship and love.
suzyd More than 1 year ago
I was swept away by the story and could not put the book down once I got into it. Truly amazing how the male author captured the feelings and thoughts of a young female narrator. He is to be commended not only for the beautiful story but also for making us forget that the author is a man.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I bought this book by the reviews and they lived up to their description. This book was wonderful. The characters caught my attention right away, as did the story. It was the first time I read anything about this time frame so I am not judging the history. It was great to find a new author, I look forward to reading his next book.
Moni_kay More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book. I fell in love with the characters and the story right away. The author did a great job recreating the times, not that I knew exactly how things were, but he made it very believable. His extensive research on the subject shows and even though I recognize that the story is considered fiction, it made the The Taj Mahal that much more real and beautiful to me. There is a lot of tragedy in this book, however, it is still very much a story about love, hope, and a sense of duty for the common good.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I could not have enjoyed this book any more. It is an amazing story--one that made me laugh and cry, and one that I will always remember. This fine novel was recommended to me by several friends, and I can see why. It is simply fanastic. If you're interested in the beautiful story behind the Taj Mahal, or just wonderful writing, this book is for you. Beneath a Marble Sky is the best book that I read in 2007. No doubt about it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I would definitely read more by this author. This book is a great choice for book club discussions.
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em_j More than 1 year ago
I recommend this if you enjoy reading books of different cultures. I felt I was there at the time the Taj Majal was built. Very romantic.
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