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Beneath a Marble Sky
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Product Description

Journey to dazzling seventeenth-century Hindustan, where the reigning emperor, consumed with grief over the tragic death of his beloved wife, commissions the building of the Taj Mahal as a testament to the marvel of their love. Princess Jahanara, their courageous daughter, recounts their mesmerizing tale, while sharing her own parallel tale of forbidden love with the celebrated architect of the Taj Mahal. This impressive novel sweeps readers away to a historical Hindustan brimming with action and intrigue in an era when, alongside the brutalities of war and oppression, architecture and the art of love and passion reached a pinnacle of perfection.

Customer Reviews:

  • Beneath a marble sky
    It's one of those books that you don't want to put down until the very end. It's a beautiful and yet tragic love story of the Mughal Royal family. Told through the eyes of princess Jahanara, it's intense and passionate. While some facts are historic and some fiction, it leaves you with a sense of curiosity as to what truly happened. I honestly felt transported to India each and every time I opened those pages. Wonderfully crafted. ...more info
  • Lesson learned!!
    A insert from the book: "We'll climb a mountain together," he promised. "But you should see them alone, my love, for only alone will you come to understand their true nature."

    My take on it: Only when you're alone can you come to realize your true nature. Only when you climb your highest mountain can you appreciate the journey. As I do that now, only in the past weeks have I realized the true me, my true nature. She was always there, but was hidden or was forgotten for a very long time.

    I really enjoyed reading this book. Being a native Indian, I was so proud to finally read a book outlining the history of the Taj Mahal with a little romantic twist.
    ...more info
  • A wondrous tale of love
    I have long dreamed of seeing the Taj Mahal for myself. This story brought the monument and life in those times to life. Beneath a Marble Sky is a wonderfully crafted novel. John Shors bring the characters to life with such depth and realism. I felt their joy, their pain, their love and their grief as if it were my own. Now more than ever I long to see this for myself. A must read written by a truly talented author.

    Linda C. Wright
    Author, One Clown Short
    One Clown Short...more info
  • 'A cup of chai cools my hands. A breeze gathers in the distance, unsettling tranquil waters
    The story begins with Jahanara telling her two grandaughters the story of how she grew up in the Red Fort and of her parents undying love. She tells of how she lived inside the harem. Her father, Emporer Shah Jahan, had several wives, but only truly loved her mother, whom he calls Taj. In a time where women are treated as lesser beings than men, Jahanara is very close to her mother, who trains her in politics and educates her.

    Soon enought Jahanara is arranged to marry Khondamir, a repulsive man twice her age. She is mistreated and is miserable. When Jahanara sees her family again, her mother is very pregnant and insists on Jahanara being there for the birth of the baby. Taj ends up dying shortly after giving birth. She makes Jahanara promise to take care of her father and she makes the Emporer promise he will build something beautiful for her and visit her tomb each year on the anniversary of her death.

    Jahanara's father hires an architect, Isa, to build what comes to be the 'Taj Mahal'. He instructs the architect to build 'the most beautiful structure in the world', because his wife was the most beautiful woman.

    Isa and Jahanara come to fall in love, but it is dangerous for them to be together since she is married and they both can be killed if the wrong person finds out about thier relationship. Isa builds the monument for Jahanara, his love for her is his inspiration.

    This book is full of drama, has just enough romance and the setting is both interesting & beautiful. I recommend this read.

    ...more info
  • a wonderful insight!
    this book is an amazing view into the building of the taj mahal. the characters are very well-developed!...more info
  • Beautiful masterpiece
    This was the most beautifully written book!I have recommended this book to other book clubs and they loved it too!...more info
  • Excellent First Novel
    The author did an outstanding job of incorporating historical data into this novel. The plot moved along at a good pace, and the descriptive passages were great. I would recommend the story as an excellent candidate for a future movie!...more info
  • I thought this book was just terrible!
    Maybe my hopes were too high, based on all the glowing reviews here, but I thought this book was just awful. The author (a man) can't write from a woman's perspective at all convincingly. The romance is flat and boring, especially if you've ever read great romantic historical fiction along the lines of "The Other Bolelyn Girl." The "bad" character is given no possible reason for being evil, he's just bad from birth and that's that. There's a tied-up-with-a-bow happy ending that's nearly laughable. Is most historical fiction so lame that this poorly written book looks good by comparision?...more info
  • Jahanara's voice just doesn't ring true
    Other reviewers have outlined the plot in detail, so I won't cover it further in my review. Suffice to say it places a story of love and family feuds against the backdrop of the building of the Taj Mahal by Shah Jehan. What a fantastic opportunity to cast light on the era of the Moguls and the amazing power they wielded, not to mention the amazing possibilities provided by the landscape, colour and sheer diversity of India itself.

    Sadly, however, for me this book fails to deliver on a number of levels. The history element is merely a sideline and India itself becomes a backdrop, instead of a driving force of the book. Additionally the protagonists are all stereotypically good or bad, coming over almost as comic-book characters, and I totally agree with other reviewers who felt the character development was one-dimensional. I also felt that, since we know for sure that the two principals end up together from the first chapter, the love story fell a little flat.

    However, in my humble opinion, one of the book's greatest flaws was the attempt to tell the story through Princess Jahanara's voice. It requires great sensitivity and depth to tell a story in the first person voice, even when the author is of the same gender. However, for a man to attempt to portray the feelings and words of a woman was never going to be really successful.

    Overall, however, it's not a bad book, just disappointing if you're expecting a lush epic of the Moguls as I was. I give it two and a half stars for trying.
    ...more info
  • An absolute masterpiece of historical fiction
    Should Oprah ever read this novel, I have no doubts that it would quickly become one of her book club selections - and even then, Beneath a Marble Sky would not get the attention it truly deserves. This novel is, quite simply, a literary masterpiece. Like the timeless monument that forms the story's backdrop, Beneath a Marble Sky is a living testament to love, beauty, and humanity at its best. Epic in scale and disarmingly challenging in its vision, this novel offers an incomparable exploration of romance, truth, nobility, duty, sacrifice, friendship, faith, evil, etc. Its characters easily present themselves before your very eyes, far too human, real, complex, and intricately realized to ever remain locked among the words on the written page.

    One of the seven wonders of the modern world, the Taj Mahal is the most famous and breath-taking monument to love on this planet, yet few in the West know very much about the story behind it. Inspired to tell its story in a work of historical fiction, John Shors spent seven years researching, writing, and refining this novel. To make the task especially daunting, he, as a first-time novelist, chose to tell that story from the point of view of Jahanara, the seventeenth century Hindustani empress whose father, Shah Jahan, commissioned the construction of the exquisite mausoleum. Following the outline of historical events that culminated in the controversial reign of Jahanara's tyrannical, Islamo-fascist brother Aurangzeb (Alamgir I), Shors takes the reader on an emotional journey of overwhelming proportions, peeling back the veils of time to reveal amazing insight into a fascinating society and culture whose influence is still felt to this day - and not only in modern-day India and Pakistan. Shah Jahan was a Moslem emperor ruling over a land with a Hindu majority. While surrounded by dangerous enemies, Hindus and Moslems lived together in peace in Hindustan - until, that is, Aurangzeb came to power and founded his reign on Sharia law. The parallels to modern world events are obvious.

    Beneath a Marble Sky, though, is primarily the story of Jahanara, a most remarkable woman who, in this work of historical fiction, embodied the best qualities of both her father and mother. A remarkable woman indeed, she understood her duty as a child of the Emperor and never let the fact that she was a woman in a male-dominated society restrain her from doing what was right or, in her eyes, necessary. Her great fortitude and independence caused her almost unbearable pain and suffering over the years, yet she never betrayed herself or her ideals - or chose escape over what she viewed as her duty. Married off at sixteen years of age to a brutal, despicable trader, she despaired of ever experiencing the kind of true love shared by her parents - until, that is, she met Isa, the architect chosen to design and build the Taj Mahal. Theirs was a forbidden love that could have caused great damage should it have been discovered - but she found help from an unexpected place and came to know a degree of true happiness with Isa. Events conspired against her, however, as the blood-thirsty Aurangzeb sought to usurp the throne in place of Dara, Jaha's beloved older brother who wanted nothing more than to bring Hindus and Moslems closer together. It is during the ensuing years of great personal suffering that Jaha truly emerges as the embodiment of her mother's ideas and essence.

    A book like this is the next best thing to a time machine, for John Shors truly does take you back to the days when Jaha walked the streets of Agra. Without your even thinking about it, you soon find yourself experiencing everything through Jaha's eyes and ears, from the chaotic activity of a bazaar to the perfumed beauty of a harem to the blood, stink, and sweat of brutal warfare - and, of course, the unsurpassed beauty of the Taj Mahal, which you watch grow from the laying of its foundations to the completion of the domed marble mausoleum which served as the inspiration for the book's title. Fear not that you won't be able to relate to life in this ancient, exotic setting, for Shors quickly immerses you in this world. The moral dilemmas Jaha faces are particularly poignant, making her the most human of protagonists. And the love story is just exquisite. Truly, I couldn't ask for a more rewarding, enthralling reading experience than I found in Beneath the Marble Sky....more info
  • Fabulous!
    Great story! My book group chose this book as our selection one month. We all enjoyed it. Great discussion. Best part was having a conference call with the author himself regarding the book. The only criticism I have is that I wish it was longer! Can't wait to read more of John Shors' work....more info
  • 5 is not enough stars!
    I read about 1-3 books a week, so I am a well-read woman. This book made it to my top 10 list and I can't believe it took me so long to discover it. Fascinating story of love, betrayal and history all rolled into one incredible book. This is the author's only novel and I hope he'll write more. His ability to capture emotions, dialogue and place are truly fine.
    I highly reccomend this book.
    ...more info
  • One of the best...and talk to the author too!
    It has been a while since I have felt so strong about a book. The author pulled me in from the very first page and drew me into a time and place I knew nothing about. My senses were alive as if I were in the story! I am still amazed how wonderfully written this novel is. My book group was fortunate enough to have a conversation with the author John Shors via teleconference. It added to our enjoyment of his novel and each person I have recommended the book to has thoroughly loved it. John Shors was just featured on CBS news promoting his novel and his idea to make himself available to book groups across the country. He is a master at his art and I look forward to reading his next novel!...more info
  • Loved It
    Beneath a Marble Sky is a beautifully written, even if it is fanciful, history of the building of the Taj Mahal. the prose is so poetic that you feel it. Loved the book!...more info
  • Superb Storytelling!
    I can't say I've ever been interested in the Taj Mahal or anything related to it but this book was so smoothly and superbly told that it captured me right from the beginning. I was enthralled through the entire book and had a hard time putting it down. Books rarely ever really make me cry or laugh and this one did both repeatedly. I want there to be more from this author - I don't care the subject... if he wrote a book about lint, I'd read it because this one was just fantastic....more info
  • Great plot, but where's the character development?
    I agree with the reviewer who said the characters were either the essence of goodness or vile and evil. Yes, the book is a great page turner and the plot is intricate and interesting, but without dimension to the characters, it's not a memorable novel. I'm surprised by all the praise being thrown around, frankly. Maybe I just need character driven fiction to make reading worth my while--for a good yarn with no depth, I'd rather watch TV. ...more info
  • Excellent historical novel
    This is an excellent historical novel of India. A love story and an
    exact history of the Taj Mahal. Expands over a long period of time
    until it is completely built.
    Well written
    ...more info