by

The Mountain of Light

The Mountain of Light
Indu Sundaresan

The Kohinoor diamond today is part of the British crown jewels. But hundreds of years ago, it belonged to rulers of India, Persia and Afghanistan. It was taken as kingdoms were conquered, and given in ransom and tribute. The name “Koh-i-noor” means “mountain of light” and refers to the diamond’s unusual brilliance.

Sundaresan has written a beautiful account of almost 100 years in the life of the Kohinoor diamond, during the British conquest of India. The story traces real events and features some historical characters, although many of the details are fictional.
Sundaresan opts to move the story along through a sort of chain of narrators, each one linking to the next. I found each narration break a bit confusing, as it always took me a little while to figure out the connection to the previous segment. However, this unique style brought a wide range of perspectives to the story (male and female; British and Indian; royal, military and civilian.)
The segment I enjoyed the most was also the saddest one: at the end when the last heir of the Punjab empire, Dalip Singh, has followed the Kohinoor to England.  His life there is in sharp contrast to the stories of his predecessors in India just a few decades before.

Sundaresan excels at descriptions: lush gardens, vivid colors and sparkling mirrors form the backdrop for the story of the Kohinoor diamond. The contrast between Indian and British cultures is especially sharp.  This is a part of history I don’t know much about, but Mountain of Light brought the stories of the past alive.
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You might like: The Namesake, Lahiri. The Blood of Flowers, Amirrezvani. The World We Found, Umrigar.

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