Friday, September 19, 2014

Review: The Dancer and the Raja

Book cover: The Dancer and the Raja by Javier Moro The Dancer and the Raja by Javier Moro
Published September 23, 2014
by Open Road Integrated Media
Source: Netgalley

On January 28th, 1908, a young Spanish woman sitting astride a luxuriously bejeweled elephant enters a small city in northern India. The streets are packed with curious locals, anxious to pay homage to their new princess with skin as white as the snows of the Himalayas.

This is the beginning of the story, based on real events, of the wedding of Anita Delgado and the wealthy maharajah of Kapurthala, a grand story of love and betrayal that took place during almost two decades in the heart of an India that was on the verge of disappearing.

Ana Delgado Briones, Anita to family and friends, married a charming maharaja. Almost overnight she was transformed from a cabaret performer to a queen of a remote Indian kingdom in the Punjab. Javier Moro tells her story, based on actual events, transporting the reader to the India of the Maharajas. Along the way, he shows the conflict between traditions centuries old and the lure of European lifestyles. The story of Anita and the maharaja of Kapurthala is not just a love story, but also one that shows the clash of cultures, especially the growing tension between the British and the Indian Maharajas.

Right there on the cover it says “A Novel”, but this book has the feel of a scholarly text, complete with footnotes. The author has delivered an appealing work, combining information from a number of historical sources including Anita's own diaries to tell the story of a teen-aged girl who fell in love with a king, only to discover that her life as a queen turns out quite differently from her day dreams.

As I mentioned in my quick summary a couple of weeks ago, ultimately this is an impressive story about the end of an era in Indian history. For the first time, I had been shown the withdrawal of the British from India through the eyes of a ruler of an Indian state. I heartily recommend this book to readers who are interested in the human side of world events.

Note that I received a copy of this book from the publisher, Open Road Media via NetGalley.


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