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“Like braille, the history of India can be read in the rocky ruins left by a succession of victors and vanquished”. And when these stories are written down with an eloquent pen, they become memorable.
Anita Anand’s debut novel, ‘Sophia’ is a historical and literary marvel. It sets high expectations from any novel that she writes hereafter.
The Prologue starts with a scene at Westminster on 18th November, 1910. This was the day when The Suffragettes’ amplified voices rose together to demand the right to vote.
The research is impeccable and each stage of Sofia Duleep Singh is painstakingly documented, with detailed background on how this youngest Princess Duleep Singh, the granddaughter of the Lion of Punjab, became an awe-inspiring figure in the history of Britain, the same empire that annexed the Sikh Empire and took away the priced possession of Ranjit Singh- the KOH-I-NOOR!
Very little was known about the princes and princesses Duleep Singh, as they have up until now, been overshadowed by the greatness of their grandfather and the chronic debauchery and excesses of their father, who at a very young age became the pawn in the hands of British Monarchy and the India Office. Anita Anand manages to give due importance to the descendants of one of the greatest maharajas of India.
Anand takes the reader on a grand tour, back in time when the Sikh religion started in Punjab and the glorious period of Maharaja Ranjit Singh made history. The decline of the mighty empire and the trials of the descendants thereafter, is painful to read.
As the biography moves forward, the author very deftly manages to link the period of change in Britain and the simultaneous rise of rebellion against British Dominion in India. Characters such as Lord Minto, General Dwyer, King George V, Annie Besant , Lala Lajpat Rai, Gopal Krishan Gokhale and Mahatma Gandhi emerge from the pages.
Sofia enjoys the prominence as this book is a testimony of how she not only influenced events in the country of her ancestors, but also paved a way for revolution in the country of her birth. From fighting for the ‘Lascars’, the poor seafaring sailors from India and the Far-East, to rallying alongside Emmeline Pankhurst for suffrage, Sofia was a much talked about woman in the 1920s in Britain.
A must read for all who share a passion for history and want to be enthralled by the story of the woman, who stands tall in the defining moments of British and Indian history from the 1900s.
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