This month started off with travel and a lot of work. I’ve only managed to read one book so for – The Last Queen by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. If you haven’t read Chitra’s books – I highly recommend getting your hands on The Forest of Enchantments and The Palace of Illusions. Both the books are beyond remarkable. The Forest of Enchantments is one of my favourite books. So from the start I had exceptionally high expectations from The Last Queen.
Plot – The Last Queen is a first person retelling of Rani Jindan’s story. She was the last regent queen of Punjab and after her husband, Ranjit Singh’s demise, she ruled Punjab on behalf of her son till the Britishers annexed Punjab. The book is based on the true story of Rani Jindan.
Review – This is definitely not one of my favourite Chitra Banerjee books. It took me a while to actually finish reading it. While Jindan’s story may be impressive – was it impressive enough to write a WHOLE book on? I’m not sure. The sacrifices made by millions of people throughout the years of India’s freedom struggle against the British is undocumented and it might have made for a better story to write about them.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE –
- Chitra’s writing wasn’t able to make me bond with Jindan. In her other books, her writing got me attached to Sita and Panchali’s stories – I was sucked into their world and their struggles hit a chord with me. It wasn’t the same with Jindan.
- Chitra admitted in an interview that Queen Jindan was a flawed human. But in my opinion, it is possible to get your readers to fall in love with flawed characters too. Even Panchali in The Palace of Illusions is extremely flawed but I still grew to be attached to her. Jindan is just an average person without any qualities that would make you like her.
- Chitra credits all of Jindan’s smart moves to her dead husband and shows all her illogical moves to be her own. She doesn’t let the readers marvel at the smartness of the Queen by giving all the credit to her dead husband’s stories.
- The one thing that invokes a lot of feelings in most Indians and I assume people from other colonies as well – is the hatred towards the colonizers who ruled us brutally for years. Chitra isn’t able to exploit those emotions to make us more invested in Jindan’s story.
- There are too many details for such short a book – so many names and backstories for characters who are only mentioned on two pages.
- The author spends too much time building up the story till when Jindan becomes the queen and doesn’t spend enough time glorifying her after. Her journey to becoming the queen, while important to the story, isn’t the most interesting. It might have worked better to show the journey to her becoming the queen in flashbacks.
WHAT I DID LIKE –
- It was a short, easy read.
VERDICT – I think my high expectations from Chitra is the main reason why I’m disappointed in this book. It was an OKAY read for someone who is interested in historical fiction. 5/10
Find the book here.
Have you read The Last Queen? What was your review of the book? Please recommend historical fiction books in the comments below.
If you haven’t read my last few posts –