In her luminous new novel, Bharati Mukherjee creates a vivid, complex tale about the dislocation and transformation that arise in the face of a meeting of cultures: the terrain she has so brilliantly made her own in her acclaimed novels and stories. Here, in the Holder of the World, we witness an unlikely and intriguing meeting of two worlds, the Puritan American and the Mughal Indian. In a startling commingling of history and imagination, Mukherjee lights up the making and very nature of the American consciousness. This is the story of Hannah Easton, born in the American colonies in 1670, “a person undreamed of in Puritan society.” Inquisitive, vital, awake to her own sense of self and purpose, she is “a spiritual aristocrat in an age of common believers.” After traveling to Mughal, India, in the company of her husband, an English trader, Hannah sets her own course into the life and imagination of the country, “translating” herself into the Salem Bibi, the white consort of a Hindu raja. And it is the story of Beigh Masters, born in New England in the mid-twentieth century, an “asset-hunter” who stumbles on the scattered record of Hannah’s life while tracking a legendary diamond. In Hannah, Beigh discovers a remote relative, and as she pieces together the details of Hannah’s journeys, she begins to realize that their blood relation is only the most straightforward of the connections between them. In her belief that “with sufficient passion and intelligence, we can deconstruct the barriers of time and geography,” Beigh finds herself moving toward an almost unfathomably intimate grasp of Hannah’s experience. And in turn, Hannah becomes a guide for Beigh across the “tangled lines of India and New England” that gave Hannah’s life its extraordinary shape and that begin now to reach across a rift three centuries wide into the fabric of Beigh’s own life as well.
Bharati gives an overview of the book:
Of Bengali origin, Bharati Mukherjee was born in Calcutta, West Bengal, India. She later traveled with her parents to Europe after Independence, only returning to Calcutta in the early 1950s. There she attended the Loreto School, Kolkata. She received her Bachelor of Arts...