Date: 9th September 2016
Time: 6 PM
Venue: Oxford Book Store, Connaught Place, New Delhi
There, I was, strolling in CP, enjoying Naturals Ice-cream while awaiting the watch to indicate 6pm. However, I couldn’t wait as much and was at Oxford at 5:30. I glimpsed through books and looked around until the launch finally started at 6:30pm.
The ever-charming Willliam Dalrymple started off the event with asking Shazia Omar about her experiences of 9/11 and how they made her shift from her well-paid career in NY to social work and finally to writing books.
Shazia described being influenced by Jack Kerouac’s work. She went on to talk about how it took her 4 years to complete her first book. Her first book Like a diamond in the sky was a narrative about addicts in Mumbai. She also told us about how both her books have males as the main character and it’s spontaneous how that comes to her rather than being the voice of a female character.
She further told us about how 12 writers came together in Bangladesh to form a critique writing group and she was one of them.
Shazia remembered how she was aiming at bringing the perspective from a negative Bangladesh to a positive one. She elaborated that although its image may be negative now, it hasn’t always been so. She reminisced about a time when it was full of literature, culture, and deep rich history and legacy.
She talked about the main character of Dark Diamond, Shayista Khan whom she has set in the image of Indiana Jones. She went on to talk about the early Aurangjeb of 1685 and how we should take a look at history to see what it can teach us. History repeats itself. She talked about how with the radical Islam, artisans were unable to sell their goods. The battle we are fighting is still the same as the one he was fighting then.
Questioned about the title, she replied that diamonds were earlier used to trade in large measures. Heroin used to be bought in exchange for diamonds. She wanted to draw a parallel between the material and the spiritual. Kohinoor brought misery to whoever owned it and she spinned a tale around the same.
The launch was splendidly spearheaded by William Dalrymple as he asked question after interesting question making for a lively session.
Published: August 23, 2016
Source: Review book by Bloomsbury
Goodreads Summary: The hero of Dark Diamond is Lord Shayista Khan, the Mughal Viceroy of Bengal, who in 1685, during Aurangzeb’s rule, was the most powerful man on Earth. Under Lord Khan’s governance, Bengal became the epicenter of commerce and culture – a veritable treasure chest with greedy enemies: Maratha warriors, Arakan rajas, Hindu zamindars, fanatic Mullahs, a diabolical Pir with occult powers and the East India Company. Not only does Lord Khan have to keep them at bay but also he must neutralize the curse of the Kalinoor, the dark diamond sister of the famous Kohinoor that now adorns the British Crown.
My View: Frankly, historical fiction isn’t up my alley for the most part. However, the book launch sparked my interest and I decided to give it a read. The story flowed effortlessly from page 1, taking you along with it. The characters are well-etched and I found myself rooting for them. The parallel story lines worked wonderfully, weaving a web of mystery.
Thrill was apparent in every page of the book, making me want to read on to know what happens next. The book takes you on a journey through the lands of Bengal, mesmerising and enchanting. Shayista Khan, despite his age, appears as the charming, handsome hero he is portrayed to be. The romantic sub-plot also works well.
Some of the things that I did not like included the use of too many big looking words which seemed more to be there to prove the vast vocabulary of the author rather than serving any purpose. They seemed straight out of a thesaurus and could have easily been done without.
I did not, in particular, like the beginning of each chapter. In trying to ‘show rather than tell’, the author lost relevance for the description of a landscape in the beginning of each chapter. Its presence seemed futile and the result of a planned chapter beginning. It could have surely been given a miss.
In all, an exciting one-sitting read.
3/ 5 stars – I liked it.
(All opinions expressed are my own and in no way influenced.)
Huge thanks to Bloomsbury Publishing for providing the review copy.