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The Twentieth Wife | [Indu Sundaresan]

The Twentieth Wife

An enchanting historical epic of grand passion and adventure, this debut novel tells the captivating story of one of India's most controversial empresses, a woman whose brilliance and determination trumped myriad obstacles and whose love shaped the course of the Mughal Empire.
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Publisher's Summary

An enchanting historical epic of grand passion and adventure, this debut novel tells the captivating story of one of India's most controversial empresses, a woman whose brilliance and determination trumped myriad obstacles and whose love shaped the course of the Mughal Empire.

Skillfully blending the textures of historical reality with the rich and sensual imaginings of a timeless fairy tale, The Twentieth Wife sweeps listeners up in Mehrunnisa's embattled love with Prince Salim - and in the bedazzling destiny of a woman, a legend in her own time, who was all but lost to history until now.

©2002 Indu Sundaresan; (P)2006 Blackstone Audio Inc.

What the Critics Say

"Sundaresan writes in the great tradition of the Indian epic, an art she carries forward with grace and brilliance....This is a remarkably readable book despite the historical basis, with which many readers will not be familiar." (Library Journal)
"Sundaresan's debut is a sweeping, carefully researched tale of desire, sexual mores, and political treachery set against the backdrop of 16th- and 17th-century India....[She] charts the chronology of the Mughal Empire, describing life in the royal court in convincing detail and employing authentic period terms throughout." (Publishers Weekly)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.0 (490 )
5 star
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Overall
4.1 (174 )
5 star
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3 star
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2 star
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Story
4.4 (177 )
5 star
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4 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Taryn Suffern, NY, United States 09-20-11
    Taryn Suffern, NY, United States 09-20-11 Member Since 2005

    Addicted to Audible!

    HELPFUL VOTES
    1027
    ratings
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    320
    162
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    "couldnt make myself like it"

    I found this story to be tedious, despite the wonderful performance. I just didnt enjoy the story enough to keep listening after 4 hrs.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jee Seoul, Korea (South) 09-29-10
    Jee Seoul, Korea (South) 09-29-10 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A Cinderella story set in Mughal India"

    As another reviewer has stated, this novel falls more along the lines of historical romance than anything else. I give it four stars for the lush writing, descriptions of the time and places, and vividly developed cast of characters. The narration is an added treat--Sneha Mathan does some of the best voices and accents I have ever heard.

    The chief strength of The Twentieth Wife lies in its lively depictions of a very different culture and attitudes from the present day, while at the same time illuminating universal themes such as ambition and romance. I found Mehrunnisa's struggle with the limited role of women especially sympathetic, and her frustration was all too understandable. Her desire to enter the royal zenana had a ring of truth in that context, since it would open the doors to the kind of influence and power closed off to most women of her time.

    That said, I confess to not liking the titular character or her romance all that much. This dulled my enjoyment of the book despite its excellence, hence the lack of a fifth star. It just seems a little too pat and easy that the love of Mehrunnisa's life and the man who could give her riches and power beyond imagination were one and the same. That really triggered my cynicism about the purported romance, a problem I have with all Cinderella tales. Furthermore, due to the limitations of the times, the only way Mehrunnisa could achieve her ambition was by pleasing a powerful man. That is very much in line with the reality of the period, and it was nice that she had the intelligence, drive, and luck to do so well for herself. It's just that the kind of "true love" that also happens to make you filthy rich and extremely powerful poses no interesting conflicts or dilemmas, so I could have done without all the gushing about love. If anything, it seems like a story of love of riches and power--something universal and understandable, but not particularly admirable in itself.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Karin W. Dublin, CA USA 05-13-10
    Karin W. Dublin, CA USA 05-13-10 Member Since 2008

    Fantasy and Romance Author

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Interesting story, fabulous narrator"

    A historical novel in the vein of Philippa Gregory, chronicling the life of the woman who rose from humble origins as a Persian refugee's daughter to become a Mughal Empress, this book is a fascinating glimpse into the life, politics, and history of late 16th-century India.

    What really makes this audiobook outstanding, however, is Ms. Mathan's terrific narration in Indian-spiced English. She skillfully and sensitively gives each character an individual voice. I will have to look up what else she's narrated!

    Highly recommended for anyone looking for a well-written historical novel set in a period that hasn't been done to death.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Diane Iron Station, NC, United States 10-03-09
    Diane Iron Station, NC, United States 10-03-09
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Nice Surprise"

    I really enjoyed this book more than I thought I would. It was very long but that didn't really bother me - it was interesting and kept up the pace and the narrator did an excellent job - good story and characters - worth listening to.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    C Aspen, CO, United States 07-06-07
    C Aspen, CO, United States 07-06-07 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Basically romance"

    Although it might be considered historical fiction, it read like a romance novel for me.

    5 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ali 07-28-14
    Ali 07-28-14 Member Since 2014
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    "One of history's greatest love stories falls flat"
    Would you try another book from Indu Sundaresan and/or Sneha Mathan?

    Maybe. But I think next time I will need to have the written version and not the audio. There were too many confusing names and I had to back track a lot to figure out who they were. If I had the visual on the names it would have probably been helpful.


    What was most disappointing about Indu Sundaresan’s story?

    The author goes a long way to paint Salim as a terrible person- drinking, whoring, torturing... but then we are supposed to believe that Nisa was really in love with him despite all of that? Either there is a lot more to their love, or Nisa was just power hungry. Or, Salim was a different person than we were lead to believe... whatever the reason, the way it was told just didn't make sense.


    Would you be willing to try another one of Sneha Mathan’s performances?

    Maybe if there weren't as many kid voices. Those drove me crazy.


    If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from The Twentieth Wife?

    All of the back and forth pining by Salim and Nisa. We didn't need to hear about how much they wanted to be together 6,000 times. Better would have been a little more character development... what was missing in their lives that would have been fulfilled by them being together.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Peggy PA 08-22-13
    Peggy PA 08-22-13 Member Since 2007
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    "Interesting and intriguing story!"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    I couldn't stop listening to this book! The story was so interesting and different from anything I was familiar with and the narrator was very enjoyable to listen to! I would highly recommend this book, this author and this narrator! See other books by this author!


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kristina Soquel, CA, USA 06-13-13
    Kristina Soquel, CA, USA 06-13-13
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Excellent."
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Great adventure, feel as if you're there


    What did you like best about this story?

    Love story, adventure, accents, everything.


    What about Sneha Mathan’s performance did you like?

    Incredible depth to characters.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Becky Hobson Macomb, IL 04-15-13
    Becky Hobson Macomb, IL 04-15-13
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    "A love story for the ages. Historical Fiction"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Yes, I enjoyed every minute of it. Very well written.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Mehrunnisa. She was an independent thinker. Steadfast.


    What does Sneha Mathan bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    Her reading was lovely. She did a fantastic job of the different characters. Her accent made the story more authentic Indian. She pronounced the proper names and words of the cultural that I would not know how to pronounce, not being of the culture the book was written.


    If you could take any character from The Twentieth Wife out to dinner, who would it be and why?

    Jagat Gosini. To hear the wisdom of this woman.


    Any additional comments?

    The Twentieth Wife is colorfully written. You can see the festivities, smell the flowers & incense, taste the curries. I was engaged throughout this book. It is a historical fiction and historically accurate as historical documents were available. You will not be disappointed with the writing, or the audio rendition of this book. It is rich in cultural. The love story is a wonderful one, definitely worth telling their story! Be aware that when the characters are given honors, they sometimes receive a new name. The book was very tastefully written. There are some details of war. I'm going to read another one of Indu Sundaresan's books it was so good.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Booklover Washington, D.C. 11-17-12
    Booklover Washington, D.C. 11-17-12 Member Since 2008
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    "Evocative and Enjoyable"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    The author conjures up the Mughal Empire with skill and feeling, a period story woven through an individual narrative, the best way to enjoy history. The narrator is outstanding -- a factor that can't be underrated.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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