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Publisher's Summary

While Galileo was suffering under house arrest at the hands of Pope Urban VIII, the 30 Years War was ruining Europe, and the Pilgrims were struggling to survive in the New World, work began on what would become one of the Seven Wonders of the World: the Taj Mahal. Built by the Moghul emperor Shah Jahan as a memorial to his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal, its flawless symmetry and gleaming presence have for centuries dazzled all who have seen it.

The story of its creation is a fascinating blend of cultural and architectural heritage. Yet, as Diana and Michael Preston vividly convey in the first narrative history of the Taj Mahal, it also reflects the magnificent history of the Moghul Empire, beginning with legendary warriors Genghis Khan and Tamburlaine.

©2007 Preston Writing Partnership; (P)2007 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"Enriching in its historical sweep and context." (Kirkus Reviews)
"Though many questions about the Taj remain unanswered, this small history breaks through the legendary façade to reveal a powerful backstory." (Publishers Weekly)
"The Taj Mahal, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, has been beautifully exalted in the hands of the Prestons....They skillfully unveil the history of the 16th-19th-century Moghul Empire, especially its architecture, campaigns, and court life....a reliable source for readers wanting to understand the splendor of the Taj Mahal in historical context." (Library Journal)

What members say

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  • Overall
  • Neil
  • Phoenix, AZ, USA
  • 11-01-09

A broad perspective

This book provides a broad historical context for the building of the Taj Mahal, focusing on the few generations of Mughal emperors that led up to Shah Jahan, its builder, and ending with the death of his son, who imprisoned Shah Jahan. A few chapters are substantially dedicated to the architecture, design and construction of the Taj itself. So, if you're looking for a hyper-detailed physical examination of the structure alone, this book is not for you. On the other hand, it is impossible to understand the place the Taj holds in Indian history and in India's society today without its historical context. The questions of why Shah Jahan built it, what motivated him, what his life experiences and his relationship with his queen were leading up to the day the decision to build was made are all addressed by the authors. The book, written by two British historians, does present the fascinating story of the Mughals from a stubbornly western and British experience, which has both its pluses and minuses. But I confess fascination with the contemporary descriptions of various events and experiences the Prestons included, that came from a few European travelers who had access to their royal hosts' official lives. The authors also did an excellent job of presenting both sides of the evidence when it came to factually contested questions, suggesting their own conclusions but ultimately leaving the analysis for the reader to decide.

The narrative style is entertaining and logical. I found the narration by James Adam to be superb. His British accent was well-suited for the context of the book, although as an Indo-American I did wince at some of his English pronunciations of Indian words at times. That's only natural. I highly recommend this read for anyone who wants to visit the Taj (and if you are a westerner traveling to India, you almost certainly will be), or who wants an introduction to the history of the Mughal empire in India.

10 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Enhanced Experience of Seeing the Taj Noticeable

Read this before we saw the Taj. Absolutely good thing to know the historical background (and to know some of the guides tales are merely tall tales). Interesting history and background plus architectural discussion.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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THE MOGHULS...A DYNASTY OF FLAWS & FABULOUS!

This is absolutely a historical account of the powerful Moghul Dynasty from their earliest nomadic roots to their height of rule under Emperor Aurangzeb, which encompassed Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bengal and central India. Although this book is entitled Taj Mahal it is actually about the lust for power and barbaric inter-family brutality that eventually was the downfall of Moghul rule. For the many achievements and advancements credited to the Moghuls, from fantastic architecture to advances in mathematics and education, the empire itself was tainted with brutality and blood, having pitted fathers against sons and siblings against siblings. The authors take us along this dynasty’s bloody history and the Prestons do an extraordinary job in providing fascinating facts so that the reader/listener might understand the breathtakingly bejeweled and enormously opulent lifestyles each Moghul leader commanded. I was mesmerized by how the Moghuls' seemingly boundless amounts of gold, silver, diamonds, pearls, precious stones and riches financed expansive wars, employed architects and artisans to create fabulous forts, palaces, harams, grandiose gardens and other such sumptuous luxuries and extravagances the world has yet to see equaled...and of course there is the Taj, for which there are no words.

The Taj Mahal is an unmistakable symbol of Moghul architecture. It is unequaled in magnificence and wonder, as was Shah Jahan's passion for his most beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal, for whom the Taj was built. I have seen the Taj and to this day I have not come across a single picture or video that does this resplendent attestation of love the justice it deserves. I deeply appreciate the authors and this audiobook for detailing the true story that is the basis of the Taj’s creation and existence. The building’s extensive complex and its gardens are described in detail and I am once more amazed at how such a grand monument was erected by the countless men and women who used their own hands to dig, move stones and then carry loads of excavated earth by way of baskets upon their heads. The Taj Mahal is a tear on the cheek of time and it glistens like a pearl for a love that will forever transcend the ages. True, it is a mausoleum that entombs a dead queen but it is also a living example of a love that brought a most powerful emperor to his knees. Although I was a bit annoyed with the narrator at times because he mispronounced certain names and words, I do highly recommend this very dynamic historic account, especially for those who are seeking extravagance, excess, intrigue, ambition, greed, betrayal and of course, love. The Moghuls…just Fabulous!!!

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Angela
  • Burbank, CA, United States
  • 04-14-10

I liked the voice of the reader but not the book

I was looking for a few books to listen to on the flight to India. I picked this book and one called Snakes and Ladders. I didn't really enjoy this book. Actually, I didn't finish listening to it because every time it put me to sleep, I really liked the voice of the reader. If you're into History (or if you're into to numerous dates and names) and want to learn about this time period it might be for you. If your going to India and want a little history about the Taj Mahal then look else where.

6 of 10 people found this review helpful

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Excellent Book

A very fine short history of Moghuls and full description of the coming together and architecture and engineering of Taj Mahal.

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Detailed, fascinating account of mughal dynasty

Wonderful account of the history of the Mughal dynasty. The name is very misleading. Although the book gives a lot of details on the Taj Mahal, it provides a rich and fascinating account of the history of the Mughal dynasty stretching from Babur all the way to Aurangzeb. Must read for anyone interested in this history