Wednesday, August 13, 2014
The Dancer and the Raja by Javier Moro
5.0 out of 5 stars -- Sumptuous and fascinating historical fiction that is based on the life and times of a Spanish girl named Ana (Anita) Delgado Briones, who, at 17, left her family and everything familiar behind and traveled to India to wed His Highness Raja Jagatjit Singh of Kapurthala. She had no idea, nor was she even remotely prepared, to become the fifth wife -- nor did she realize that, as a European woman, she would not be awarded even the slightest degree of acceptance by his household, his people, or the British establishment there. Does Anita have what it takes to overcome tradition? Would this princess live happily ever after in a place wealthy beyond her dreams?
The details of her story are so well written that the reader is immediately engaged with Ana -- soon to be officially renamed Prem Jaur (Princess of love) -- and her unusual position in tumultuous times circa early 1900s. Facts are easily intertwined with very realistic imaginings of life at the palace, travel, politics, domestic travails, and many other encounters with the renowned people of that period in history in India and Europe. From the food, to the clothing, to Anita's intimate life with the Raja (think Kamasutra), to the birth of a child, to the beliefs and behavior of the various religions and culture, and intrigue in the zenana -- it's all here in such remarkable description that the reader believes it all could have happened just this way.
It's a great story that brought out the researcher in me and provided a wonderful examination of the people, customs and country that was India before the end of British Imperial oversight. I'd recommend it to anyone who loves historical fiction.
Thank you to NetGalley and Open Road Integrated Media for the e-book to review.