The Holder of the World
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"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...."
“VIVID … MEMORABLE … LAVISH … Ideas swim like glittering fishes in The Holder of the World.… Mukherjee has stocked her new novel with interesting notions about East and West, imperialism, the constricted natures and larger possibilities of women and men, and the contrasting kinds of virtual reality achieved by computers and the written word.… She is as visionary as ever.” —Los Angeles Times Book Review “Bharati Mukherjee constantly reminds us of the interconnections among cultures that have
roof. Hannah followed. Bhagmati, the serving girl, stood silently at the far end of the balcony. Indeed, Hannah had climbed to the top of the world. Not only did White Town command the highest land in the region, but Hedges’ house occupied the very pinnacle of the nob. The ocean, broad to its curvature with at least a dozen East Indiamen under full sail, filled the horizon, with the near perspective speckled by fishermen’s boats and one-sail dhows. The warm breeze sought out the last pockets of
history in the place. Over two years she elicited from Sarah the story of Martha’s courtship and marriage. In 1681, the last year of my ancestor Streynsham Master’s governorship, John Ruxton had arrived in Fort St. George, a thirty-year-old bachelor. Cholera, dysentery, typhus and lash ulcers had preoccupied him through Nathaniel Gyffords’s harsh governorship. Then, midway through Elihu Yale’s term, in June of 1690, as the monsoon broke and the very bowels of the Bay of Bengal were churned as
the tower room—she would not allow herself to call it a prison—startled her. She would have to accustom her limbs to fold and her spine to flex into new positions so she could recline, lounge and squat like the locals. In hallways and courtyards out of her view, soldiers and servants were issuing instructions in a language that she hadn’t heard before. She squatted on the thin rug, cheek pressed into the stone wall, knees drawn up to her chin in despair. For the first time in her life she longed
fired-clay powder. He’s the first of my friends to win a genius grant. Devon, who got me through the first lonely months in London by taking me everywhere by bus and tube and walking, pointing out buildings, revealing how sheer love of a city, sheer awareness of one’s setting, was an adequate replacement for food and warmth, until the day he disappeared and the police found sticks of dynamite and blasting caps in my closet, wrapped in my sweaters. His love of London was a targeting mission.