The Twentieth Wife : The Taj Mahal Trilogy

  • by Indu Sundaresan
  • Narrated by Sneha Mathan
  • Series: The Taj Mahal Trilogy
  • 14 hrs and 3 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

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.


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)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful


The Twentieth Wife is a tough nut to crack. You *want* to like it; it's painstakingly researched and brings the court intrigues of Mughul India to life. However, the book has a few really critical flaws:

1. It often skips the key events, describing them between-chapter narration, choosing instead to flesh out the areas between key events.

2. It's characters change sometimes without a sense of why. You get the sense that the author saw, in the History, a change in character, and then made the character changed in the novel without a good sense of motivation. A simple non-spoiler example (although by no means the most jarring) is Mehrunnisa suddenly becoming an expert craftswoman.

3. The pacing is very uneven -- threads are suddenly picked up and then dropped as promptly. It seems, again, as though the author were paying close attention to historical accounts and including things simply because they're recorded in the history. The sudden inclusion of the English & Portuguese at the end of the book is very jarring.

4. The story relies on the love between two characters, but that love doesn't feel believable. There is a sense that there is a more subtle story about power, status and money hiding in the facts which the author tries to skirt around in favor of some fairytale concept of love. However, the facts don't seem to fit the emotions the characters are meant to have. I wasn't convinced by being told, again and again, how much the motivation was love. It felt hollow somehow.

It was an enjoyable enough listen -- it got me through re-painting my apartment, but i was never lost in the story. The story and setting are quite interesting, the narration is very good, but the execution of the book is flat and somehow lifeless. I do not regret listening, but I wouldn't wholeheartedly recommend it either.

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- Neil

Great narration, love story & history

I bought this on a whim during an audible sale and am very glad I did. My next credit will go towards purchasing the sequel, The Feast of Roses. It narrates the love story between Mehrunissa, the daughter of a Persian bureaucrat who flees his native land to seek better fortune in India, and Prince Salim (Emperor Jahangir) in late 16th and early 17th century India. The two meet as adolescents and are only able to marry as mature adults. Sundaresan is excellent in the small details - the tastes and smells of exotic foods, the ambiance of street life, of secluded royal courts, and of political intrigue and military campaigns. I imagine this book might appeal more to women than men. However, it provides a fascinating window into this period of Indian history. The narrator is wonderful, very expressive. Mehrunissa, by the way, is the aunt of the woman for whom the Taj Majal was built. She became a powerful political figure in her own right; this story is told in the sequel.
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- Jersey Girl

Book Details

  • Release Date: 12-06-2006
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.