From the internationally bestselling author of The Twentieth Wife, a novel based on the tumultuous history of a legendary 186-carat diamond and the men and women who possessed it
As empires rose and fell and mighty kings jostled for power, its glittering radiance never dimmed. It is the “Mountain of Light”—the Kohinoor diamond—and its facets reflect a sweeping story of love, adventure, conquest and betrayal. Its origins are the stuff of myth, but for centuries this spectacular gem changes hands from one ruler to another in India, Persia, and Afghanistan. In 1850, the ancient stone is sent halfway around the world where it will play a pivotal role in the intertwined destinies of a boy-king of India and a young queen of England—a queen who claims the Mountain of Light and India itself for her own burgeoning empire, the most brilliant jewels in her imperial crown.
The Mountain of Light is a magnificent story of loss and recovery, sweeping change and enduring truth, wrapped around the glowing heart of one of the world’s most famous diamonds.
This book is the epitome of historical fiction perfection. Given all the information that’s packed into its storyline, I wouldn’t necessarily call it a heavy read – the chapters are almost episodic in nature and feature individual stories that are tied together by the mystery and wonder that is the Kohinoor diamond – The Mountain of Light.
I’ve always loved historical fiction, and it’s especially easy to love a tale as expertly woven as The Mountain of Light by Indu Sundaresan. Though much of the story a fictionalized account of real people in the history of the diamond – starting from the early 1800s with the Shah Shuja, who ultimately exchanges the diamond for his freedom, and ends with the tale of Maharajah Dalip Singh, the last Maharajah of the Sikh Empire to own the Kohinoor – though there are many more unexpected tales in between. There are more than a few real glimmers of truth to the story, and Sundaresan helpfully outlines at them at the finish.
Sundaresan writes so passionately, so intimately, that you believe that the stories she’s telling are true. She makes you believe in the diamond, and makes you believe in the people who come in contact with it. By the end of the story, I felt an emotional attachment, not only to the characters, but to a diamond that I’ve never seen, but have come to understand means so much to so many people.
The diamond is beautiful, obscenely valuable, and now adorns a crown as part of the British Crown Jewels. That, anyone will know, what they don’t know is the story of how it got there – the hands it passed through, the people who risked their lives to protect and attain it, their individual stories – so incredibly coloured by the many faceted reflections of this mystical jewel.
There are many characters in this book, but with a close read I didn’t find it too confusing to follow; though depending on the reader’s level of engagement, the time jumping and character changing might be a challenge for some. I’d recommend you sit down and let this book wrap you in the sights, smells, and history of a land that is, even now, still one of the most culturally rich and interesting places on the planet.
The story is beautiful, immersive, with both strong male and female characters, and a bevy of perspectives from all areas of the social spectrum. What I also enjoyed about The Mountain of Light was that we were able to see both Indian and English perspectives, and as those perspectives changed, so did the wants, desires, and concerns of the people that surround the diamond. Some of the perspectives I agreed with, others I did not, but it was fascinating to see into the minds of both the native and the British colonizers.
From the start to the inevitable finish, I was completely taken in to a world that I’ve only ever experienced through books and pictures, and I feel more enriched for having taken the journey through Sundaresan’s tale. I can’t wait to read more of what she will write and to also go back and read through her catalogue.
Absolutely 5 stars; if you enjoy historical fiction at all, you will enjoy this book.