ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is an Indian-American writer. Chitra was born on July 29, 1965 in Kolkata. She has published her works in diverse genres, which include poetry, short stories, magical realism, historical fiction, mythology, young adult and fantasy.
Some of her notable books are The Mistress of Spices, The Palace of Illusions, and Sister of My Heart. Many of her works have been adapted for films and plays. Her novels have been translated into a total of twenty-nine languages.
A recipient of many awards and accolades, Banerjee lives in Houston with her family. She teaches creative writing at the University of Houston.
The Last Queen is based on the life of Maharani Jind Kaur, who was the youngest wife of Maharaja Ranjit Singh and the mother of the last Maharaja, Dalip Singh.
It is a fictionalized first-person account of the Maharani based on the actual historical events in her life. The book has been divided into four parts to cover Jind’s story.
The author has put forth several aspects of Jindan’s life in chronological order. This is the story of a girl blessed with an extraordinary beauty and an intelligence par excellence; a girl who rose from a humble background to emerge as the Queen Regent in the most testing circumstances.
The first half of the book mostly deals with Jindan’s childhood, her marriage to Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the matrimonial bliss to follow, and the death of the Maharaja. The second half takes the readers through the struggles Jindan had to face due to the tussle for succession and the First Anglo-Sikh War. All these events have been beautifully captured from Jind’s point of view and focus intensively on her hardships.
WHAT WE LIKED ABOUT THE LAST QUEEN (MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS)
The Last Queen is the love story of Maharani Jind Kaur and the Lion of Punjab, Maharaja Ranjit Singh; it is also a biography of a Queen whose few years at the helm of the Sikh Empire were marred by strife and struggle.
Readers will especially be touched by how this brave lady took on everyone who tried to destroy what her late husband had created. While she loses rather convincingly in the end, her demeanor was as dignified as a victor.
Perhaps the most interesting feature of The Last Queen is that the author has not tried to create a perfect woman. The Maharani is not a goddess who gets everything right. She is rather a woman who wishes to do what she believes is right. She makes mistakes, trusts wrong people, and makes impetuous decisions that cost her dear. Being the valiant lady that she is, she acknowledges all her slip-ups and regrets them just like any responsible human being would.
WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER ABOUT THE LAST QUEEN
Despite all its positives, The Last Queen is far from being one of the best works of Chitra Banerjee. The story is powerful overall, though it does come across as remarkably flat at times.
I understood his unspoken message. This is the life of a Queen. You’ll always be second to Punjab. Get used to it.
Surely I’ve taught you better than to run away from problems! If it’s fame you crave, instead of killing yourself, why not live in a way that people will remember?
The Last Queen is a book meant to be read on a lazy weekend. It has just about the right combination of a strong female lead, romance, and heartache.
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