Book Review: Anamika by Meghnad Desai

Book Name: Anamika

Author: Meghnad Desai

Publisher: Rupa

Genre: Fiction

Rating: 4.5/5

Book Blurb: It is the eighteenth century. Emperor Aurangzeb has fallen, the Mughal Empire is a shadow of its former self, and India is rife with civil war. In these times of gardi, you’d have to be a lion to win power, and a wolf to keep it. When the beautiful Savitri, the only daughter of the Chief Minister of Purana Zilla, marries into a rich merchant household in Ranipur, she becomes Anamika. Her future seems assured—she is to bear her loving husband Abhi many children, eventually becoming the lady of the house and perpetuating the family’s fortunes.

But a tragic accident on their wedding day renders Abhi paraplegic, seemingly dooming their perfect future. Anamika still finds bliss in her love for her husband, but her in-laws’ unfulfilled dreams of progeny threaten to consume and destroy her.

But into her life enters Abdul—the illegitimate son of Shah Ahmad Khan, locked in a deadly war with his brother Hassan for the throne. This powerful, magnetic stranger upsets the balance of her everyday life, thrusting both Anamika and Abhi into a newfound world of intoxicating freedom, conflicting desires and deadly deceit.

Review: Anamika is a story set during the Mughal empire. The initial portrayal of Anamika is that of a docile woman, house-bound and someone who is supposed to play the role of a dutiful wife.

An accident on the day of the wedding leaves her husband- Abhi bed-ridden. This leaves Anamika’s primary responsibility- of bearing a child and ensuring the legacy of the household, unfulfilled. The family and the village enters an upheaval of sorts by the arrival of Abdul who is fighting a battle for the throne and is after a brief encounter, besotted with Anamika.

Meghnad Desai writes well and creates a realistic Mughal world- believable to some extent. Mughal royal households were known for palace intrigues and the author manages to capture this aspect very well. The book relies more on characters and their exploits.

Anamika’s devotion and her plan to see her husband looked after and her schemes are a delight to read. Desperate situations demand desperate measures and the protagonist excels at it. The portrayal of women in Anamika is as headstrong, powerful women who are not afraid to use their sexuality when required.

Anamika is a book worth reading as good fiction centered around the Mughal period is tough to find even though the period was full of drama and there is enough material for a writer to explore. But most projects until now have bordered on historical accounts rather than weaving fictional works around this rich period of history. So Meghnad Desai has chosen the right theme and historical perspective.

At its heart, Anamika is perhaps a unique romantic story filled with palace intrigues and a parallel struggle for power between Abdul and Hassan, the illegitimate and legitimate sons respectively.

Will Anamika prevail? Will her schemes bear fruit?

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