The Holder of the World
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"An amazing literary feat and a masterpiece of storytelling. Once again, Bharati Mukherjee prove
she is one of our foremost writers, with the literary muscles to weave both the future and the past into a tale that is singularly intelligent and provocative."
This is the remarkable story of Hannah Easton, a unique woman born in the American colonies in 1670, "a person undreamed of in Puritan society." Inquisitive, vital and awake to her own possibilities, Hannah travels to Mughal, India, with her husband, and English trader. There, she sets her own course, "translating" herself into the Salem Bibi, the white lover of a Hindu raja.
It is also the story of Beigh Masters, born in New England in the mid-twentieth century, an "asset hunter" who stumbles on the scattered record of her distant relative's life while tracking a legendary diamond. As Beigh pieces together details of Hannah's journeys, she finds herself drawn into the most intimate and spellbinding fabric of that remote life, confirming her belief that with "sufficient passion and intelligence, we can decontrsuct the barriers of time and geography...."
the sea and the spreading rooftops of Salem. For the rest of his life he scuttled between civilized Salem and the buckskinned fringes of the known world, out beyond Worcester, then Springfield, then Barrington, gathering his tenants’ tithes of corn and beans, salted meat and barrels of ale, selling what he couldn’t consume and buying more tracts of uncleared forest with the profit, settling them with frugal, land-hungry arrivals from Northumberland, while running his own sea trade in rum and
woman who had tried other lives—dairymaid in Devon, barmaid in Bristol—and hated them profoundly. She, who had known servitude as a girl, now had a retinue at her command. Martha and Sarah savored their roles as guide and guardian to Hannah. They never let Hannah forget that they were truly Englishwomen, while Hannah was tainted because of her long residence in primitive New England. “I suppose Mr. Legge has found himself a bibi,” Sarah began, always with a smile. Hannah knew the word, but did
shawl, Higginbottham’s riot changed the course of history. The riot had its origin in one fateful glance that the Chief Factor cast out his bay-facing office window on an amber-gold, honey-sweet late September afternoon. A Coromandel-built two-master with a decked poop was being rowed ashore by a dozen firangi sailors in scarlet tricornered hats and silver-braided blue coats. Seated on a throne under a gaudy roundel, being fanned with peacock feathers by servants, was Gabriel Legge, the pirate
played the cards that were dealt him, who met all his quotas and returned decent value, who tried to rein in the rapacious tendencies of his underlings, was not sufficiently treasured by Pitt or London. And then, in October 1700, his only helpmeet, Sarah, out for a stroll with Martha in the Ruxtons’ garden, one minute was sharing delicious gossip that she had just heard about the notorious traitor, Gabriel Legge, and his bibi, and the next instant was bitten by a rabid flying fox. She died
She learned to sew, sing, cook, paint auspicious alpana designs on holy days, swim in the hyacinth-choked pond behind the hut, and chant a weekly prayer to Lord Shiva so he might direct a kindly, preferably motherless, husband her way. “Why motherless?” asked Hannah. “Fewer beatings.” Then, at age ten, the unspeakable had happened. On her way upriver by barge to Nadia with three widowed aunts and a bachelor cousin for the funeral of a great-grandfather, she and her family had been set upon by