Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Lucknow Shadow of Empire by Alan McKee

The greatest tragedy of Queen Victoria’s reign...

...was a personal experience for Henry Booth. His mother died when more than one-hundred women and children were hacked to pieces with meat cleavers by the rebel forces of the Great Indian Mutiny. This event, which transformed an empire, left deep scars in Henry’s character.
     Years after the slaughter, Henry receives his mother’s journal from India and the young Oxford student finds himself suddenly entangled in his mother’s past, a past he never suspected, a past which threatens his own life in the present.
     While Henry tries to elude the dangers that confront him, he comes to know his mother, not through the idealized memories of a seven year old child, the age when he last saw her, but through her journal. The journal teaches Henry that his Victorian assumptions about the nature of women are utterly false. What he learns from his mother’s private thoughts allows him to give up the myth of male supremacy for a passionate relationship with a young Indian woman who has been trained as a dancer, musician, poet and courtesan.
     Shadows of Empire is a love story and mystery that takes place in the exotic settings of Lucknow, northern India, and Victorian London. In addition to the drama of two interwoven cultures, and two story lines of past and present, the reader will also encounter the remarkable subculture of the Lucknow courtesans, highly skilled  artists who were leaders of  their society and, unlike nearly all other women on the subcontinent, lived their lives without male domination.


How bout some teasers!

Discussion about the psychology of love:

“That is love’s great deception,” the girl said, putting her instrument aside and sitting cross-legged in front of him. “It makes each lover believe absolutely in the unique nature of his or her love. Yet, we are all the same. Especially when we love. Every courtesan knows this deceit that love forces on lovers, and she uses it in her work. Yet, she knows the truth of love: All lovers are alike. It is only in very small details that they are different from one another. But the courtesan pretends to believe love’s lie. She sighs convincingly, goes without food, dangles her feet at the edge of a prec­ipice. All these things. But all the while, she knows the truth.”

“So courtesans never fall in love themselves—and—and believe the lie?” Henry asked.


The Murder of Ahktar Devi

But the most horrible thing of all was that her eyes were wide open and staring at nothing. They were utterly devoid of life, and from what I could see, she was naked. I could scarcely believe what my eyes were seeing, so I took a step toward the open door to look more closely.

When I saw that she really did look dead, I wanted to run back into our room, but horror had rooted me to the spot. Before I could move, a man came out of the room, he was putting a white scarf into his pocket. We looked directly at each other. We stood only a few feet apart and with the light from the room falling into the hall, he could not mistake me any­more than I could him. He was an Englishman but even worse, we were known to each other!


The Massacre of Women and Children

The small yard where the bibighar, “house of women,” stood had a blighted tree at its centre. Somehow this tree had on its branches, not leaves but tiny rags of clothing torn from the murdered women and children. It seemed to me a horrible trophy of innocent death. These rags called attention to themselves by fluttering in the slight breeze. Something about that slight movement seemed more horrible than all the slaughter I had seen in any of the fighting. When I stepped inside the small house I saw great splashes of blood everywhere. The desperate clinging of feminine arms had left bloody imprints on the pillars of the veranda. Clearly, the women had clung to the building whilst they pleaded with their butchers. But worse was yet to come: in the yard outside was a well, around which grew prickly plants in abundance. These plants now held great quantities of human hair--hair which had been torn from the heads of the women and children. I shall not say what had been thrown into the well.

In later years this well became known as the Memorial Well and was the most photographed place in British India.
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Shadows of Empire Amazon Paperback


Author Bio:

Alan began writing at age six by plotting with his father on Superman, Batman and other action hero stories for DC Publi­cations in New York. His other writing includes commercial films, brochures and advertisements. Alan is also a photogra­pher, using twenty-first century technology to capture macro images in nature. His work is inspired by his mother, Marjorie McKee’s, abstract expressionist painting. His work is in private collections globally.
Alan lives with his family in Toronto but spends time at his second home in Nova Scotia. His special interests are British history and nineteenth century literature. He has been particularly inspired by two great British historians, E.P. Thompson and Eric Hobsbawm.
Oxford, England remains a soft spot as does the writing of Wilkie Collins and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
His other books are The Iron Beast and The Minotaur’s Children. The Minotaur’s Children details the trade in children and young girls between London and the brothels on the continent. It is against this backdrop that the story is told.

Author Links:
Alan’s Blog
Alan on Facebook
Alan McKee on Goodreads
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