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The Feast of Roses


The Feast of Roses Cover



Reading Group Guide

Questions and Topics for Discussion

1. Mehrunnisa, Jahangir's twentieth wife, has ambitions beyond the veiled silence behind the zenana (harem) walls. In Chapter One, the narrator explains: "All her life she had wanted the life of a man, with the freedom to go where he wished, to do what he wanted, to say what came to his mind without worry for consequences" (p. 5). How does Mehrunnisa eventually become the power behind the throne? Does she ever really acquire the "freedom" for which she wishes?

2. In order to secure her rising power in the Empire, Mehrunnisa forms a junta, or an alliance, with her father, brother, and Khurram, the heir apparent to the throne. She is certain that "her father and brother, could always be trusted. Their blood was hers" (p. 89). Discuss greed as a motivation and how it serves to break familial ties and form unlikely alliances.

3. In her later years, when all her influence is lost, Mehrunnisa realizes that she faltered by "not consolidating her power among the women, in the women's world in which she lived" (p. 378). Do you think she would have earned the support of the zenana women in her quest for power? Would you consider Mehrunnisa a pioneer for women's rights?

4. Marriages of Mughal India during the 1600's seem to be more about lucrative unions and less about love. But a few are fortunate enough to marry for love, as is the case of Jahangir and Mehrunnisa. Do you think Mehrunnisa exploits Jahangir's love for her own advancement? Why is marriage so important to Indian women of this time?

5. When a man, such as Emperor Jahangir, has twenty wives, there are bound to be rivalries, jealousies and hierarchies amongst the women. Discuss the politics that occur in the zenana. How do you feel about polygamy? Considering the context, does it empower or demean women?

6. Discuss the significance of "the feast of roses" as it occurs in Chapter Ten. What are the implications of Jahangir's gesture? Why do you think the author chose to title the novel thus?

7. Describe the nature of the relationships between the Indians and the English and Portuguese firangis, or foreigners. How did the foreigners view the Indians?

8. Abul betrays his sister, Mehrunnisa, and aligns himself with Khurram who, he hopes, will be the next emperor. Abul understands that "In being born a man, and being born with no imperial pretensions, he could never change his status"(p.322). Does this mean that women are at a social advantage since they can marry-up?

9. Discuss the male-female power dynamic. Why do you think both women and men are disturbed and threatened by Mehrunnisa's power? Inevitably she seems to be disliked by almost everyone. Do you find Mehrunnisa a likeable character? How would you rate her performance as "queen"?

10. "Emperor Jahangir had once said that kingship knew no kinship"(p. 291). Discuss the many rivalries for the throne. Out of all of Jahangir's sons, Parviz, Khusrau, Sharyar, and Khurram, who do you think truly deserves to be prince?

Product Details

Sundaresan, Indu
Washington Square Press
Action & Adventure
Historical - General
Romance - Historical
Historical fiction
General Fiction
General Fiction
Biographical fiction
Love stories
Literature-A to Z
Edition Description:
Publication Date:
May 2004
Grade Level:
8.22x5.34x1.11 in. .78 lbs.

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The Feast of Roses Used Trade Paper
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Product details 416 pages Washington Square Press - English 9780743456418 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , The love story of Emperor Jahangir and Mehrunnisa, begun in the critically praised debut novel The Twentieth Wife, continues in Indu Sundaresan's lush second novel, The Feast of Roses. Here, Mehrunnisa comes into Jahangir's harem as his twentieth and last wife. This time Jahangir has married for love, and members of his court are worried that Mehrunnisa could exert control over their futures. Their concerns are well founded.

Mehrunnisa soon becomes the most powerful woman in the Mughal Empire in spite of a formidable rival in the imperial harem who has schemed and plotted against her from the start. She rules from behind the veil, securing her status by forming a junta of sorts with her father, brother, and stepson — and risking it all, even her daughter, to get what she wants. But she never loses the love of the man who bestows this power upon her....

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