May 29, 2020
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Dead Queen

This book is absorbing despite irritations of language, misplaced props and proofing errors. Its weakness lies in its implausible examination of human attitudes.

Dead Queen
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+0553
Rani
By Jaishree Misra
Penguin Pages: 432; Rs. 350
Queens need to be good and dead before they get a life. Draped anew in sanctimony at each public viewing, they must wait for fiction to reclaim their lives. There have been several attempts to rescue Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi from her pedestal, most notably by Mahasweta Devi. Every schoolchild knows the sparse facts of Lakshmibai’s tragically brief life but the woman behind the glory remains obscure.

This book is absorbing. Curiosity keeps us going despite irritations of language, misplaced props and proofing errors. Except for the botched romance at its heart, this book adheres to historical fact. Its weakness lies in its implausible examination of human attitudes.

After an idyllic girlhood, Manikarnika becomes the Rani of Jhansi. Nobody, least of all the reader, worries about her unconsummated marriage. When that event occurs—after eight years—surely we deserve to know what brand of Viagra worked. Lakshmibai’s prozac calm leaves nice guys inert. Prospective lover Robert Ellis never gets past first base.

Misra’s narrative of the massacre of British women and children under Lakshmibai’s protection bestows the canny queen with a political innocence which borders on the naive.

What of her flight to Kalpi, leaving Jhansi to be slaughtered by Gen Rose’s vengeful army? Her celebrated heroism at Kotah-ki-Sarai, the myths around her death aren’t whitewash enough to keep her immaculate. The book ends with Ellis back in his shell and the Rani secure on her pedestal, and the writer, still bedazzled, dashing away a tear.

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