"An amazing literary feat and a masterpiece of storytelling. Once again, Bharati Mukherjee prove she is one of our foremost writers, with the literary muscles to weave both the future and the past into a tale that is singularly intelligent and provocative." --AMY TAN This is the remarkable story of Hannah Easton, a unique woman born in the American colonies in 1670, "a person undreamed of in Puritan society." Inquisitive, vital and awake to her...
"An amazing literary feat and a masterpiece of storytelling. Once again, Bharati Mukherjee prove
she is one of our foremost writers, with the literary muscles to weave both the future and the past into a tale that is singularly intelligent and provocative."
This is the remarkable story of Hannah Easton, a unique woman born in the American colonies in 1670, "a person undreamed of in Puritan society." Inquisitive, vital and awake to her own possibilities, Hannah travels to Mughal, India, with her husband, and English trader. There, she sets her own course, "translating" herself into the Salem Bibi, the white lover of a Hindu raja.
It is also the story of Beigh Masters, born in New England in the mid-twentieth century, an "asset hunter" who stumbles on the scattered record of her distant relative's life while tracking a legendary diamond. As Beigh pieces together details of Hannah's journeys, she finds herself drawn into the most intimate and spellbinding fabric of that remote life, confirming her belief that with "sufficient passion and intelligence, we can decontrsuct the barriers of time and geography...."
Neither as accessible as Jasmine nor as superbly crafted as National Book Critics Circle Award-winner The Middleman and Other Stories , Mukherjee's new novel is a challenging work that engages the intellect more than the heart. Narrator Beigh Masters is a Yale grad who has put her history degree to use in ``assets research,'' tracking down rare art and jewels for wealthy clients. Her pet research project involves Hannah Easton, born in Massachusetts in 1670, who went on to marry an English trader, journey with him to India at the dawn of European colonization and become the lover of a Hindu prince. This novel is Hannah's story, told by Beigh with an emphasis on the themes that interest her: the nature of time, the merit of attempts to recapture the past, the collision of values that inevitably occurs when New World meets Old, the power wielded by unconventional women in a hidebound society and the revenge that such a society exacts. Mukherjee writes with her customary elegant lucidity; her insights into 17th-century America, England and India are as tough-minded and astute as anything she has written about contemporary society; and she spins a rousing narrative of greed, lust, battles and betrayals. Readers may feel somewhat aloof from Hannah, who is viewed always from a distance, but an abundance of interesting ideas partly compensates for the book's lack of an emotional center. (Oct.)
Exotic locales and historical-genealogical connections color this novel by the author of Jasmine ( LJ 7/89). Beigh is a contemporary New England woman of Indian (that is, ``Indian-Indian, not wah-wah Indian'') heritage, who is in love with technocrat Venn from India. Beigh is obsessed with antiquities. The graduate work she was doing on the Puritans had led her to the discovery of one of her ancestors, a Hannah Easton, who traveled from her home in New England all the way to India with her trader husband. The author has woven together Hannah's story with Beigh's search for ancient jewels and legends. Mukherjee writes about all these unusual times and places with a style that is mesmerizing. Unfortunately, the dialog of bygone eras too frequently sounds contrived. Recommended for larger fiction collections.-- Ann H. Fisher, Radford P.L., Va.
In both "The Middleman and Other Stories" (1988) and "Jasmine" (1989), Mukherjee has written about immigrants from India and their struggle to adjust to life in America. Her newest novel, a work of crystalline perfection, refracts this theme by exploring the fate of an American woman in India. But Mukherjee also explores the shape and texture of time. This unusual cross-cultural adventure tale, which is as vivid, monumental, and full of meaning as any myth or ancient tragedy, is narrated by a young New England woman whose livelihood is tracking down antiques. Her quest for a legendary diamond called the Emperor's Tear leads her to artifacts and documents attesting to the astonishing story of Hannah Easton, a late seventeenth-century Salem, Massachusetts, woman. Orphaned when her widowed mother ran off with her Native American lover under the cover of massacre, Hannah nearly goes mad keeping her mother's secret from her Puritan rescuers and is happy to escape with the only sort of man who would marry her: a one-eyed buccaneer. Their travels eventually bring them to the east coast of India and into the heart of the trade wars between the English, Hindus, and Muslims. Quickly widowed, Hannah is transfixed and transformed by this land of extremes and discovers true passion in the arms of a raja, in the midst of bloodshed, completing the strange and mysterious life design her mother began. In prose as specific and measured as math but as evocative as music, Mukherjee articulates the horrors of colonialism and war, while, simultaneously, marveling at the power of the spirit and the wonder of survival, the very essence of legend and art.