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Monday, July 28, 2014

Book Review : ‘The Last King in India' by Rosie Llewellyn-Jones

Considering my love for history and all its stories, it was no wonder that I wanted to pick up this book. British historian, Rosie Llewellyn-Jones’ take on this particular period in history, ‘The Last King in India: Wajid Ali Shah’ gripped my imagination. 

The pages began well, a rather poetic king, with a love for the female form, considering he had about 350 wives! He married with considerably difficulty at 15, to Khas Mahal, the granddaughter of Sally Begam, whose history is fascinating in itself. (I thought it would make a whole other story). She was also a poet like her husband. 

Wajid Ali Shah, a nawab with an enthusiasm for the theatre, music and dance, he considered himself close to Lord Krishna. This would probably explain his love for many women. He has three sets of wives, the ‘mahals’ who gave him progeny,  the ‘begams’, the ones who did not give birth, and the ‘khilawatis’, who performed basic jobs in the household.

The thing, which caught my eye, was his fascination for theatrics, which he showed, through directing and producing a few longish sessions of theatre. He is also known for the renewal of Kathak. The 'fairy palace' is a another beautiful read.

Though he actually is not known for his rule, which did not last very long, he still has all the other factors which make up this book, a good read. The Nawab of Awadh’s children are as numerous as his wives, whom despite the divorces were always around.

His reign in his ancestral kingdom ended in 1856 when Lord Dalhousie took possession of Awadh. He lived the good life, (1822-1887) in Calcutta’s Garden Reach where he was exiled to. He ruled for exactly nine years. His love for theatre and architecture were aspects, which never left him. At Garden Reach, the readers are introduced to ruler’s love for animals.

He also seemed to have a thing for keeping one’s family close by. This could explain why his children were hardly ever seen outside the walls, but were taught at the school inside Garden Reach, itself.

Though I enjoyed the book, it was only in parts. I thought it read like a history book, which was a tad boring. I have read a few non-fiction books before but I have always enjoyed them, probably due to the author who always seemed to have a fascination for his/her subject. I felt that the history though well-researched but was written as a school’s history book.

Author: Rosie Llewellyn-Jones
Genre: Non-Fiction
Publisher: Randon House India
ISBN: 978-81-8400-549-3
Price: Rs 599 /-

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