Monday, August 25, 2014
4.0 out of 5 stars -- Engrossing and well documented epic of the Nehru-Gandhi Dynasty
Although a novel, this story of the Nehru-Gandhi family and their dominance of India's fledgling democratic nation as leaders of the Congress Party, is told from the point of view of Sonia Gandhi as she witnesses tumultuous events in history from the vantage point of marrying into the political powerhouse and being the daughter-in-law of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. In an almost continuous "reign" with only a few misses, Mahatma Gandhi's ideology lives on through the decades as his friend Nehru and Nehru's daughter, Indira, her sons Sangay and Rajiv, and ultimately her daughter-in law passionately steer India into the 21st century and beyond. With the goal of independence through non-violence, the family firmly believes in the three pillars of India -- "democracy, secularism and the rule of law." They must contend with all manner of challenges to their philosophy as religious nationalism and communism threaten to divide the nation and lead to unending civil war.
Since India is a nation of many cultures, languages and religions, it proves a daunting task of the family to unite the country and achieve common goals for the good of all the people. Unrest and corrupt government practices threaten the stability of the fragile new nation and the Gandhi family struggles to remain true to the original values of "integrity, tolerance, contempt for money, and the cult of service to others." Of particular interest are the poorest people.
The transformation of Sonia Maino Gandhi from shy Italian schoolgirl to powerful Indian politician is filled with sacrifice and deep personal pain as she faced the fanatically motivated assassinations of her mother-in-law and her husband. Resisting entry into public life and deeply private, Sonia must make a decision that puts her own dreams aside to choose what is best for the nation. In a country with more differences than similarities, Sonia -- as did Indira and then Rajiv -- must try to find solutions to problems faced by those who seek power to maintain the status quo and to circumvent the democratic process or others who encourage rebellion. Blood is shed in the name of religion as the Hindu and Moslem citizens persecute each other. It's a time of huge political upheaval and strife and the actions taken by Indira, Rajiv and others take Sonia to a position she never wanted. Sonia witnesses the toll of political life on those she loves, but is reminded again and again that she did not choose her life, it chose her.
I enjoyed this fascinating glimpse into the world of the Gandhi family and the history lessons of India. The author writes an extremely graphic picture of India, its inhabitants, and the land itself. I'd recommend it to anyone who loves historical fiction as this was very well researched and cited though the author was unable to talk with any member of the family. I'll definitely investigate some of the additional works included in the bibliography.
Thank you to NetGalley and Open Road Integrated Media for the e-book ARC to review.