Sunday, July 24, 2022

The Secret Keeper of Jaipur

  The Secret Keeper of Jaipur
Author:  Alka Joshi
Publication Information:  MIRA. 2021. 384 pages.
ISBN:  0778331857 / 978-0778331858

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "It's opening night of the Royal Jewel Cinema, which shines as brilliantly as a gemstone."

Favorite Quote:  "We know things about people ... because we go into their homes, the place where they are most vulnerable. That does not mean that we can divulge what we have seen or heard to everyone we know. There's more power in keeping a secret than in betraying it."

The Henna Artist brought us to 1950s India. The British Raj had just ended in 1947. The British Crown ruled the subcontinent from 1858 to 1947. Then came independence and the creation of the countries of India, Pakistan, and eventually Bangladesh. Culturally, the British left their mark on the countries, the government, and particularly on the lifestyles of the rich. The women were often the unspoken matriarchs in what was essentially a male-dominated society. The women wielded power but subtly. So, the idea of a woman make her own way is an even stronger one.

That book introduced sisters Lakshmi and Radha and was definitely more their story than a story of the history of the time. This book moves forward in time and becomes the story of Malik, Lakshmi's protégé. Lakshmi and her husband settled in the hill station of Shimla, but she has arranged for Malik to be an apprentice in the Facilities Office at the Jaipur Palace. Malik leaves behind Lakshmi in Simla but also Nimmi, a young woman he has met. That relationship is just beginning.

While an understanding of the prior book and the characters is helpful to this one, it is not essential. It is possible to enjoy this story on its own as it is more Malik's story than anyone else. Malik was a child in The Henna Artist. In this, he is a grown adult character. He is also the tie between Lakshmi and Nimmi.

The story moves between Simla and Jaipur and shifts between Lakshmi's, Malik's, and Nimmi's perspective. The plot of the book unfolds at different levels. The main project the Facilities Office is working on the opening of a grand cinema. The project completes. However, the book begins, and on opening night, the balcony collapses. Questions abound. How does this happen? Who is responsible? Who will be accountable? How will palace politics play into the outcome?

The palace politics, intrigues, and secrets become a layer of the plot. Who knows who? Who know what about who? Who wields the power? Who thinks they wield the power? It brings Lakshmi back to a world that she leaves far behind when she settles in Simla.

Through it all, of course, is Malik's story. He started as an abandoned street urchin. Lakshmi, while never adopting him formally, became his mother. He is now a young man starting on a career and looking to see where he can take it. At time, he is conflicted between what might be good for his career and what is right. He is also conflicted between where career and growth takes him and what and who he leaves behind.

All of this set in the midst of the beautiful Pink City and the colors, tastes, and sounds of India makes for an engaging story beginning to end. I understand that this is to be a trilogy with the third segment, The Perfumist of Paris bringing us back to Radha's story. The current expected publication date is March, 2023. I can't wait.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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