by Bharati Mukherjee
Beigh Masters is a modern New England woman, a professional asset hunter who researches the past to recover valuable objects. On a quest for an ancient diamond, the Emperor’s Tear, she gets embroiled in the adventures of a Puritan ancestor, Hannah Easton.
Crossing centuries and oceans, Masters tracks Easton from 17th-century Salem, Mass., to Mughal, India, recalling the events of her life, her transformation from pioneer child to the consort of an Indian raja.
The Holder of the World has brilliant moments, vivid images of the harshness of colonial life and the decadence of India’s Coromandel Coast, but the novel’s blessings are also its downfall. Mukherjee has written a provocative novel contrasting the cultures of East and West, but the threads of the story unravel amid the lushness of her prose and the intensity of events. (Knopf, $22)