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The Holder of the World

3.53  ·  Rating details ·  513 Ratings  ·  60 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."
This is the remarkable story of Hannah Easton, a unique woman born in the American colonies in 1670, "a person
Hardcover, 285 pages
Published September 28th 1993 by Knopf (first published 1993)
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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, impl ...more
Aug 22, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  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
K.D. Absolutely
Mar 20, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  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,
Mar 25, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  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
Lynn L
This book reminds me of The Hare With Amber Eyes: A Family's Century of Art and Loss.

The narrator goes back and forth between colonial america/India juxtapositioned with modern times. Frequently mentioned are artifacts, evidence, that support the research of the narrator. It feels a little like report on a person from history.

Overall I liked reading this book. I wish the story had a singular focus on the character Hannah. It's almost like the author included her research for writing directly in
Feb 12, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2013, wogf-2013
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
Bonnie G
Feb 19, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  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
Mar 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Aug 31, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1001-list-books
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
Dec 31, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 08, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book was not my cup of tea. I've read a few of the reviews which I suspect are correct, that this is about much deeper things. However, I'm not interested the deeper things if the story on its face doesn't hold my attention. Beigh's story is remarkably un-interesting, and the contrast of her "asset hunting" with her partner's computer-based data accumulation and analysis was heavy handed and not very enlightening. Hannah's story,when it wasn't being interrupted, was full of potential intere ...more
Apr 25, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book was confusing and difficult to get into. So I gave up.
Meaghan Banks
Apr 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Half my thesis; a book that gets better each time I read it.
May 08, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an interesting story but there just seem to be too many loose ends flying out in all directions from the beginning to the end. The author has included many details that the reader is trying to absorb when they have no bearing on the story whatever. The reader flails at times through a thick layer of haze with a visibility of zero. Nevertheless, the author does have a way with words: “The moon seemed to burn, and on dark nights, the stars crackled like embers.”
Jul 26, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I sort of hate it when I read a book at the wrong time and unfortunately I just wasn’t in the mood for a historical saga when I’ve been reading quite a few of them lately. Saying that this one also provides an interesting and original twist.

The narrator of this novel is Beigh Masters , an asset hunter who has dedicated a good part of her life to studying the (Fictional) 17th century character Hannah Easton. An independent woman who lived in Salem, England and India. Easton is a bit of a misfit w
Jul 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 07, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
This was a tough one. It took a while before I came into the story, and even then I was constantly set on a wrong foot. I have the impression that Mukherjee aimed at an experiment with different angles. On the one hand, an exploration of the historical process: how disparate data can be composed into a story and by doing so expose the great input of the author; and demonstrate that history has a complexity and "thickness" (Isaiah Berlin) that can not be represented by computer dates, but only ca ...more
Haley Keller
Oct 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
We read this book for my American literature class, and I really enjoyed it. It's such a unique story. I've never read anything quite like it before. The contrast between all of the many different cultures that are present in the book and interact with each other was so interesting and something I've never encountered before. Hannah's story and the wide variety of people she meets was just so unexpected and fun to read about.

Beigh's story seemed to take the backseat to Hannah's for the most part
May 20, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a perfect read for those who love unusual historical fiction (imagine a woman from Puritan America in Mughal India), complex characters, and explorations of cultural and religious clashes. It is also the story of a woman's personal awakening and transformation, as she experiences the cruelties and sensualities of different 18th century worlds. All of this is set within a contemporary story of an American woman researching the story and her East Indian boyfriend's development of virt ...more
This book was a very interesting look into the life of Hannah Easton. The timeline switches between the 1600's and the 1900's and takes us from Salem, Massachusetts, Europe, and then to the Coromandel coast of India. Beigh Masters, an American anthropologist, searches museums for archives of historical objects and she is searching for a perfect diamond that was in Hannah's possession. Her husband helps her by using a virtual reality program. I learned lots of interesting facts reading this book ...more
Mar 22, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
You wouldn't expect one young woman to become embroiled in both King Philip's War in colonial Massachusetts and the Mughal expansions in southern India, but Mukherjee pulls it off in her tail of Hannah Easton. Hannah is orphaned by the uprisings in the Plymouth colony, fostered to an upright devout Puritan family, escapes the dreary colony by marrying an adventurer, and finally experiences some rather dramatic events in the multicultural plunder of the Indian subcontinent. I was fascinated by th ...more
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
May 06, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 31, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Sarah Swedberg
Jan 04, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Leah Rachel
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.
Sep 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Anna Fennell
I did not enjoy this book. I think it was the weird juxtaposition of the past with the present. I did not like the present story line at all and found it really confusing. Usually, a story starts with missing information and you catch on to it but I always felt lost in the present portions of the chapters.
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Reading 1001: 10. Has this novel changed you? 10 14 Dec 27, 2016 05:17AM  
Reading 1001: 9. If you could ask the author a question, what would you ask? 8 13 Dec 27, 2016 04:44AM  
Reading 1001: 6. What main ideas—themes—does the author explore? 8 12 Dec 27, 2016 04:38AM  
Reading 1001: 5. Talk about the book's structure. 6 13 Dec 27, 2016 04:34AM  
Reading 1001: 4. Discuss the plot 8 14 Dec 27, 2016 04:31AM  
Reading 1001: 1. How did you experience the book? 11 14 Dec 27, 2016 04:18AM  
Reading 1001: 8. Is the ending satisfying? 8 14 Dec 18, 2016 07:35PM  
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Bharati Mukherjee was an Indian-born award winning American writer who explored the internal culture clashes of her immigrant characters in the award-winning collection The Middleman and Other Stories and in novels like Jasmine and Desirable Daughters.

Ms. Mukherjee, a native of Calcutta, attended schools in England, Switzerland and India, earned advanced degrees in creative writing in the United S
More about Bharati Mukherjee...