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Authors: Thalassa Ali

Companions of Paradise

BOOK: Companions of Paradise
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A Beggar at the Gate
“Beautifully written, this novel transports the reader back to the 19th century, British imperialism and the pull of two cultures in an ever-changing world.”
—Lancashire Evening Post
“Set to a backdrop of the Raj in the immediate run-up to the 1838 Afghan War,
A Beggar at the Gate
details in depth and with intelligent sensitivity the increasing desperation felt by an Englishwoman torn between two cultures. It is a story of love and understanding, of duty and honor, of spirituality and redemption, painted beautifully and vividly with deft soul strokes. The prose is as eloquent as the rounded characterizations, and when a novel can find contemporary relevance despite its historical content, it's marked as a work of some power.”
—Big Issue
(UK), (4 stars)
“Thalassa Ali is uniquely positioned to take us through an honest account of life during the British Raj. From the spectacular Charak Puja to the sati rites at a maharajah's funeral pyre to the descriptions of living quarters and the fashions of the times, Ali creates a believable world with sights and sounds buried in the annals of time.”
“Ali tantalizes her readers from the first page…. The poisonous political atmosphere of the Punjab after the death of Maharaja Ranjit Singh is captured vividly in this book and Thalassa Ali's eye for fine detail and archaeological insight is unparalleled.”
“Ali's portrayal of Islamic society is nuanced and sensitive.”
—India Currents
“Ali centers her story on Mariana, whose love for Saboor and Hassan tears her apart just as India is torn asunder by the British, Hindu and Muslim factions. The quick pace and rich detail, along with her insightful characters, will have readers eager for more. SWEET.”
—Romantic Times Bookclub
(4 stars)

A Beggar at the Gate
is a pleasing offering Ali writes with more
confidence and style…. It's a relief to find a novel that portrays the positive elements of Islam—the peace, love, charity and tolerance that are its true tenets, rather than the contentious image of Islam that has emerged in the media today.”
—Hindustan Times

A Beggar at the Gate
is a terrific insightful historical tale with a touch of romanticism that brings to life mid-eighteenth-century India. The story line moves rather quickly yet not only has full-blooded key characters, but also provides a deep window into two peoples at a point of major strife seemingly ready to turn deadly…. Readers will beg for more sequels, especially what happens to the fascinating Saboor as an adult.”
—Midwest Book Review
“The journey that Mariana embarks upon here is magical, mystical and almost sensual.”
—Pakistan Link
“This whole allegory is beautifully done, and one gets the feeling that Ali has hit her stride here. Her prose is simple and elegant… a pleasing offering.”

Bina Shah,
Hindustan Times
“Thalassa has done well to capture the spirit of the land, its customs, smells and sounds and the enchanting spiritual and mystic culture.”
“A load of historical detail that lifts the story.”
—Sunday Express, Indian Express

A Beggar at the Gate
is such a blockbuster, literarily speaking An
epic with a splash of East-meets-West romance—albeit more historically accurate and sans heaving bosoms… Ali's propensity for historical detail is a pleasure.”
“An extra pleasure to read because much of the landscape still exists today… an enjoyable read.”
—Books, Etc.
“Expertly weaving historical fact with a rich, exotic setting, Thalassa Ali holds her readers captive in this intriguing novel.”
—Paperback Shelf, Mid County Post
“Full of beautiful historical and visual detail.”
—Historical Novels Review
A Singular Hostage
“Lyrical and zippy…this richly populated novel is notable for… compelling mysticism … convincing historicity.”
—Publishers Weekly
—Kirkus Reviews
“Enlivened by captivating descriptions, Ali's seductive tale is a wonderful blend of adventure, court intrigue, historical fact, and Sufi mysticism, and it will appeal to fans of M. M. Kaye's
The Far Pavilions.

“Eminently readable.”

M. M. Kaye, author of
The Far Pavilions
“A sweeping pageant of life in the British Raj, and one woman's attempt to realize her destiny. Mystical and romantic in a way that recalls
The Far Pavilions.”
—Stephanie Barron
“An excellent book, beautifully researched and charmingly written, which does justice to both English and Indian cultures. I was particularly impressed by the matter-of-fact mysticism and spirituality. Lovely.”
—Barbara Hambly
“A rare book indeed. It combines extraordinary characters, a riveting plot, a rich historical backdrop, Sufi mysticism, and the allure of an exotic oriental court, and is eminently readable…. The reader will be tempted to devour it in one reading…. Outstanding… Thalassa Ali has truly mastered the storyteller's art…. We breathlessly await the sequel.”
“[A] distinctive setting… [and an] intriguing first novel.”
—Washington Post
“This mesmerizing tale helps readers better understand a vitally important area of the world.”
—School Library Journal
A Singular Hostage
A Beggar at the Gate

To all those who have been brave enough to speak the truth
in the face of opposition

First, I want to thank my fabulous editor, Kate Miciak, who bought The Paradise Trilogy from a rookie writer, and never looked back. Kate, if it weren't for you,
A Singular Hostage, A Beggar at the Gate
, and now
Companions of Paradise
would never have seen the light of day. Thanks also to my energetic agent, Jill Kneerim of Kneerim and Williams, who took me on, and had the very good sense to show my first manuscript to Kate.
I owe much to my friend and consultant on all matters Afghan: the excellent historian and editor Kamar Habibi, and to my writing teacher, the late, incomparable Arthur Edelstein.
Thanks to my writing group, who stood by me as I struggled and complained my way through all three books, including
Companions of Paradise:
Lakshmi Bloom, Elatia Harris, Cathie Keenan, Kathleen Patton, Pam Raskin, and Jane Strekalovsky. Each of you has made a valuable contribution to this trilogy. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart.
There are many others who have helped me in varous ways:
My dear, patient friend Zeba Mirza, who was left out of the acknowledgments for
A Beggar at the Gate.
Shelâlé Abbasi, Gillo and Ali Afridi, Dure Afzal, Shehryar Ahmad, Faqir Syed Aijazuddin, Bunny Amin, Kathleen Baldonado, Bill Bell, Brian Bergeron, Upty Clouse. Lenny Golay, Tariq Jafar, Farida and Asad Ali Khan, Judy and Bazl Khan, Tahireh and Zafar Khan, Jessica Lipnack and Jeff Stamps, Janet Lowenthal, Erika McCarthy, Cornelia McPeak, Rashid and Bano Makhdoom, Azim Mian, Kyra and Coco Montagu, Fauzia Najm, the Pakistan Mission to the UN, Ann and Frank Porter, Sharon Propson, Samina Quraeshi, Meheriene Qureshi, my sister Ala Reid, Sam and Juliet Reid, Sally Redmond, Shakil and Rehana Saigol, Mansoor Suhail, Javed and Farida Talat, Audrey Walker, Serita Winthrop, and Joyce Zinno.
And of course my greatest allies, my children Sophie and Toby Ali.
Thank you, thank you, thank you all.
or all its remoteness and high, inaccessible mountains, Afghanistan played an important role in the Great Game— the epic, nineteenth-century struggle between Britain and Russia for control of Central Asia.
Afghanistan's value lay in its trade routes, for it stood at the heart of a network of ancient caravan tracks known collectively as the Silk Route. Those narrow, treacherous roads connecting Russia and China with India and Rome had been used for thousands of years to transport rock salt, lapis lazuli, tea, and silk, but they had also served as invasion routes for the armies of Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, and other conquerors.
By the late 1830s, the British had established colonies in much of southern and central India and had begun to look north, toward the rich kingdom of the Punjab on the Afghan border. But even as they approached Afghanistan from the southeast, their rivals, the Russians, were moving down from the northwest, and had begun to threaten Persia.
It was not difficult for the British to convince themselves that the Russians would soon take over Afghanistan, invade India, and snatch away Britain's possessions there. Their solution was to preempt this threat by deposing the Afghan king, Amir Dost Mohammad, and replacing him with Shah Shuja, his British-leaning rival.
In 1839, the British implemented their plan. Having driven out Amir Dost Mohammad and declared Shah Shuja king, they settled their army and ten thousand camp followers into a cantonment, or fort, north of Kabul, and sent for their wives and children.
Two years later, they paid dearly for their folly.
Of the characters in
Companions of Paradise
, Akbar Khan, Abdullah Khan, Aminullah Khan, Shah Shuja-ul-Mulk, Sir Alexander Burnes, Sir William Macnaghten, Lady Macnaghten, General Sir William Elphinstone, General Sale, his wife Lady Florentia Sale, his son-in-law Captain Sturt, Brigadier Shelton, and Major Wade are all historical figures.
Mariana Givens, her uncle Adrian Lamb, and her aunt Claire Lamb are fictional characters, as are Harry Fitzgerald, Charles Mott, Hassan Ali Khan, his son Saboor, his father Shaikh Waliullah Karakoyia, and his aunt Safiya Sultana, Munshi Sahib, Haji Khan, Nur Rahman, and all the servants.
BOOK: Companions of Paradise
6.36Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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