Why did you choose this book?
Two reasons. First, I saw an ARC in my director’s office and had to grab it based on the fact that it was historical fiction set in India. Second, I’m in a book club outside of my job and this is our current pick.
What’s it about?
Sita is a young girl growing up in the village of Barwa Sagar in the 1800s. Her mother dies giving birth to her younger sister in a culture where having girls is a curse (they take large dowries away to their husbands’ families). In order to provide a dowry for her sister, Sita trains to become one of the Durgavasi, elite female bodyguards charged with protecting the rani (the queen located in Jhansi). Sita becomes one of these warriors, but her life certainly won’t be smooth sailing, especially as the British continue to tighten their colonial hold on India.
Fiction, historical fiction, Indian history and culture
Other recommended reads?
Although it focuses on a Western historical figure, I was reminded of The Accidental Empress by Allison Pataki.
I loved Sita’s character, and reading about life for the Durgavasi. I thought the book was extremely well-researched and I learned a significant amount about Indian culture and customs (such as purdah, the practice of keeping women confined to their homes and out of sight). I wish it had a happier ending, but I understand that the author was sticking to the facts of the historical record. I do want to read more about the rani and her bodyguards, and according to the historical note, there is plenty of documentation about these women.
The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan