Heeramandi: An Over Thought Out Review

Book Review - The Twentieth Wife by Indu Sundaresan

The following is the first paragraph describing The Twentieth Wife by Indu Sundaresan on Goodreads

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

I picked up the book expecting a tale of love and power. But what I found was a story that made me think twice about ambition and its consequences.

At the core of the book are Emperor Jehangir and Mehrunnisa, a woman with dreams bigger than her humble beginnings. Mehrunnisa wants to marry Jehangir because she loves him, but also because she wants to be the princess/empress. 

Mehrunnisa wants to be the empress so much so that she is eager to take away the position from Jehangir's previous wife of 25 years.

But here's the thing: Should we really admire this kind of ambition? 

Even when Mehrunnisa finally becomes Empress, she's not happy. Instead of enjoying her new role, she's busy plotting to secure her power. It made me wonder if ambition is worth it if it leaves you feeling empty inside. 

The book tries to tell us about Mehrunnisa's life, one episode after the other, and Mehrunnisa is just floating through them. Yes, they are difficult situations but Mehrunnisa has little role to play. She is either hopelessly "in love" with Jehangir and dreams of being the empress, or is glad of the way she looks. How does it justify the para I mentioned above as a description, I fail to understand.

Overall, "The Twentieth Wife" didn't impress me. I like books that entertain, teach me something new, or make me think. Sadly, this book didn't do any of that.

Click here to buy The Twentieth Wife: A Novel - https://amzn.to/3Vr7xv5


  1. Thanks for the warning. I always thought the love between Noor Jahan and Jahangir are eternal. But did not now she was the 20th wife.

  2. Very nice critique. Can you imagine being wife number 20?

  3. The entire Mughal family history is filled with a lot of venom of ambition and lust for power - sensual lust as well. Probably, there's no Mughal king who did not kill at least one family member in order to ascend the throne. The history of powerful rulers has always made me shudder with horror and revulsion. This book will have similar effect on me, I'm sure.

  4. I, too, was unaware that she was the 20th wife.
    Your honest review is appreciated.

  5. I totally agree with your view on ambition and its bad consequences.
    Your review of "The twentieth wife" novel is clear and honest!

  6. Better to be a simple person with a humble life.

  7. Sorry this one didn't work for you, but I agree with everything you are looking for in a book. First and foremost, I want to be entertained and to feel something. Learning a thing or two and making me think are great bonuses when that happens.

  8. Thank you for sharing this review. Your honesty is appreciated. Be well, my dear.

  9. It was great to read your honest review, and I think I'll give the book a pass because it isn't entertaining or thought-provoking.

  10. Great honest review! Not something I'll go check out unfortunately, but good to know about.

  11. Good review, sounds like one to skip.

  12. Ambition, whether small or big, is always fleeting. We want something for the sake of wanting. not for the sake of enjoying its fruits.


Post a Comment