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The Holder of the World

3.56 of 5 stars 3.56  ·  rating details  ·  352 ratings  ·  38 reviews
"An amazing literary feat and a masterpiece of storytelling. Once again, Bharati Mukherjee prove
she is one of our foremost writers, with the literary muscles to weave both the future and the past into a tale that is singularly intelligent and provocative."
--AMY TAN
This is the remarkable story of Hannah Easton, a unique woman born in the American colonies in 1670, "a person...more
Hardcover, 285 pages
Published September 28th 1993 by Knopf (first published 1993)
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(showing 1-30 of 960)
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K.D. Absolutely
May 17, 2014 K.D. Absolutely rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2012 addition)
Shelves: 1001-core, india
This book probably deserves more than two stars (in Goodreads, this means it was okay) but I just was not able to relate to the material. It is about Hannah Easton who was born as part of the American colonies in 1670, traveled to India and became a Salem Bibi, the white lover of Hindu raja.

A 2012 recent addition to the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die list, I even ordered and bought this book from Book Depository just for me to have a copy. However, while reading, the many interspersing,...more
Brimate
Sep 29, 2008 Brimate rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: colonial history/literature enthusiasts, seekers of jewels, time-travellers
Recommended to Brimate by: a Fresno State professor whom I may never meet
There's a crazy story behind me reading this book. So my partner was going to take this class, and I happened to work briefly at a textbook store. I enjoyed looking at the books for different courses, and one course on Asian American literature had this book, when I had not previously seen, though I'd heard of the author.

It looked amazing of its own accord, and it looked quite relevant to the secret story I'm writing. They're sort of similar, and I thought I had been super original.

Later, I ma...more
Monica
May 08, 2009 Monica rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Monica by: 1001 Books to Read Before You Die
Someone needs to reissue this with a better cover.

There is a staggering amount of plot in this book. Somehow it manages to combine puritan orphans, witch trials, pirates, serial killing, feminism, treasure hunting, concubines, and battles featuring elephants in full armor in 1600s India. Mukherjee's world creation is historically authentic (as far as I can tell) and full of fascinating details about an India I know nearly nothing about. I also think this might make an amazing movie .

This is th...more
Just_ann_now
I really loved the rich descriptive detail, both of material objects and historical events. Unfortunately, the story-within-a-story conceit focused on telling, not showing. I couldn't really get a handle on either of the main characters, the narrator Beigh, an art historian, and the object of her obsession, Hannah, called "The Salem Bibi". I kept wondering why this book was on a Fantasy/SciFi list; the eventual scifi aspect seemed contrived. Despite these shortcomings (to my mind) the writing wa...more
Joe
Mar 25, 2008 Joe rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people that like surprises
This is an ingenious cross genre book that combines Pilgrim times with Mughal India, a giant diamond, a modern day geneologist and antiques dealer, and a computer VR program that will eventually introduce an entirely unexpected story element.

Mukherjee is one of my favorite authors and this is her best book. Inspiring, brimming with feminist ideals that don't insult historical accuracy, and passionately researched, Holder of the World is a remarkable bit of historical romance as brought to us by...more
Bonnie G
Feb 19, 2010 Bonnie G rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Bonnie G by: used book store in Green Valley
This book has several violent scenes, so don't read if you don't care for that kind of thing. But the premise is fascinating, and I love the shift from the 1990s to the late 1600s. The majority of scenes are in India and describe tribal identities that I had no idea existed. The British were there too, plundering like crazy. The author does a great job of describing chaos while holding it all together with a story of an unlikely early American heroine. She is fascinating. I wish she really exist...more
Becky
Eurgh. I think historical fiction is rapidly becoming one of my least favourite genres. The Holder of the World is supposed to tie the modern day life of Beigh Masters, a US academic, with the life in the 1700s of The Salem Bibi, a white woman who ended up doing some pretty bizarre things in India. It's contrived, the modern day subplot is clumsy as hell, and it's not very interesting. Poor show.
Brandon Shire
Solid read. Enjoyed it, but a bit heavy on the subplots and overly descriptive paragraphs.
Parallel Worlds
Random House, 1993

Intended Audience: Adult

Sexual content: Significant

Ace/Genderqueer characters: None

Rating: R for gory violence and brief sexuality

Writing style: 2/5

Likable characters: 2/5

Plot/Concepts: 3/5



Beigh Masters is an assets researcher, obsessed with the life of the Salem Bibi, a Puritan woman named Hannah Easton who played a part in a great battle with the Muslim Emperor, the Holder of the World. Through the research of her partner Venn, information can reconstruct certain moments in t...more
Meaghan Banks
Half my thesis; a book that gets better each time I read it.
Proustitute
Mukherjee���s novel is a fantastic journey not through history, per se, but about the aspects of the personal that inform history and its varied tellings. Many of the reviews I���ve read of The Holder of the World that were negative seemed to be expecting a historical fiction; this is far from Mukherjee���s intention here. Indeed, she is questioning the very notion of history itself in how the narrator constructs the past of her seventeenth-century ancestor, Hannah, whose very name is palindrome...more
Marjorie
I upped this from three to four stars because I think it's a book that I will keep thinking about and remembering. It pulls together some of my interests - colonial America, genealogy, and India. The author interweaves several plot lines and that makes it a bit challenging to track. The historic plots revolve around one character, a woman, who has the (mis) fortune of experiencing the relatively powerless life of a woman in both colonial US and colonial India. A researcher, also a woman, in the...more
Denae
The Holder of the World is the first book by Bharati Mukherjee I have read, and I am looking forward to reading the others she has on the 1001 Books to Read Before You Die list. The degree to which I enjoyed this book is made impressive by the fact that it is a loose re-telling of The Scarlet Letter, a book I utterly loathe. The Holder of the World is a story within a story; that of Beigh Masters and the novel she is writing about Hannah Easton, a 17th century American who ends up in India, the...more
Debbie
I wanted to love this book, I did enjoy the historical aspects but that was all. I kept feeling as if I were reading an endless thesaurus. The sub plot seemed totally useless.
Sarah Swedberg
I read this first, and then Ruth Ozeki's latest book. That was simply an accident of what I had on hand to read, but it was also wonderful since they had similar structures. This one is a world history, spinning out the connections among colonial Massachusetts, England, and India. I loved it because it shattered that myth my students hold tightly that 17th century Massachusetts was an "errand in the wilderness," and that it was unconnected to the rest of the world.
Catherine Siemann
I really liked this one; "asset-hunter" Beigh Masters investigates the story of her ancestor, Hannah Easton, who is born in Massachusetts colony in 1670, marries an English trader and relocates to Mughal India, where she ultimately falls in love with Jadav Singh, a powerful Raja who battles the Emperor Aurangzeb. Muhkherjee tells an engrossing story at the same time that she also considers the nature of history and the recovery of the past -- what we can know and how we can know it. A framing na...more
Afaf Finan
An outstanding work of fiction that showcases Mukherjee's incredible talents as a writer. I had trouble putting the book down.
John
My prof correctly, I think, ID'd this as an epic, specifically a transnational epic meant to stitch together America, Europe, and India and thus to break apart the standard Atlantic or Pacific-based readings. Mukherjee is also clearly invested in exploring the nature of archive, whether as historical objects and narratives or historical facts. I can't say I was gripped; certain sentences were overwrought and certain sections dragged. But the thinking behind the thing is poignant.
Leah
It was good! Didn't knock my socks off, but a very good book, interesting, with a strong female lead [not the narrator, the actual lead of the story, Hannah]. A bit strange, when it comes to the story of Beigh Masters. Mostly it's about Hannah Easton, and her story is the fantastic one, a story of a sort of feminism, of standing up to the world, of rebellion. Liked it.
Tiffany Wacaser
I read this book several years ago for a Colonial Literature class. I started rereading it again a week ago. I could not put it down. It is very fast-paced, moving through different time periods, past, present and even the future. The story is intriquing. I thought the author handled the story and idea well and linked it in a very surprising way to the The Scarlet Letter.
Ma'lis Wendt
This complex historical novel was fascinating. Hannah Easton's life takes her from Puritan Salem to the Coromandel coast of India, from American Indian raids of the American colonies to the Hindu/Muslim warfare. Beigh Masters, an American assets finder and anthropologist, searches through obscure museums to fill in the story of the Salem bibi.
Alyssa
Timeless historical fiction work that craftfully weaves together the lives of a woman in early-90s Boston with an early American who traveled to England and India in a very different time. The more you learn about main characters, the more the barriers of time break down, and the more you want to learn.
Karlan
Rereading this unusual novel was a treat. A modern researcher looks into the story of Hannah, a 17th c Salem woman who traveled to India with her British husband and fell in love with an Indian king. The story is wildly romantic and introduces historical connections I'd never considered.
kimberly
I was first introduced to this author in college in a feminist theory class, where we read Jasmine, which follows a woman through several re-creations of her life. I love Holder of the World for its sense of wonder, magic, and intense living.
Katie M.
In retrospect, this was maybe a two-and-a-halfer ... kind of boggy and not as engaging as I kept expecting it to be. But still an interesting and original weave of colonial American/colonial Indian historical fiction.
Linell
I loved this novel. Like A.S. Byatt's Possession, it tells two parallel stories, one set in the 17th century and one set in the late 20th century. Keep Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter in mind as you read it.
Teapot
Probably would not meet my current reading tastes, but in college this was one of the most interesting reads I'd ever been assigned for class requirements. It's still on my bookshelf.
Ulla Dagert Muther
Not the easiest read, but loved the story, the history in time and the connection with Salem, MA, the Essex-Peabody Museum, London and the coast of sothern India.
BoekenTrol
Sep 13, 2012 BoekenTrol marked it as started-not-finished  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: ApoloniaX
Recommended to BoekenTrol by: Vasha
Have started, but did not get far.
Since this book is a BC-book AND a 1001-library book, I'll pass it on now to the next reader.
Jason
What an absolutely gorgeous read. A fantastic protagonist, great premise, beautiful locales, stunning craftsmanship-just amazing.
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Bharati Mukherjee is an award-winning Indian born American writer. She is currently a professor in the department of English at the University of California, Berkeley.

More about Bharati Mukherjee...
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