Daniel’s Diary- A Romance in Past and Present

 

Daniel’s Diary by Rajeshwari Chauhan

This book comes as a part of the blog tour by The Book Club. The first thing that attracted me to this book was the stunning book cover and the promise of an historical story set in Mughal era. After reading Susan Kearsley’s Firebird, I was intrigued to read a story which draws parallel with the past, and the novel does show the past in its complete glory.

The Synopsis

 When Mrinalini, an art restoration expert, ventures into the ruins of Rang-Mahal and the Palace of Sumangarh, an accidental discovery of a skeleton and a manuscript detailing the exploits of Daniel, a Portuguese artist, opens a window to the forgotten era of grace and grandeur. The blossoming of love between a Moghul Emperor and a Rajput princess, is seen through the eyes of a foreign traveller, who himself falls in love with Jodhabai.

 The plot revolves around Daniel’s quest for beauty and passion, the ecstasy and agony of love. He marries the famous courtesan Mahamaya only to lose her. It also draws a modern day parallel in the life of Mrinalini, a woman who seeks refuge in artistic pursuits and architectural ruins when relationships in life confuse her.

 Will she and Surajsinh be able to decode the clues left behind by Daniel? Will the curse of centuries-old unfulfilled love break into a happy ending for Mrinalini?

 

The book shows two stories—one happening in modern world, while the other already happened in the past. Mrinalini, an art restoration expert, goes to Sumangarh for her work, and fells for the charm of the ruins and history of the place. During one of her exploratory walks in the ruins, she discovers a skeleton and Daniel’s diary, the account of a Portugese artist who lived during the reign of Akbar. The story then moves through Mrinalini’s search for relationship, and Daniel’s search for passion penned in his diary.

What I Liked

1)   Mughal Era’s story– Let me confess you that I love that era. If you ever gave me a time machine, I’d like to go and see how those people lived. I think I have a love-hate relation with Jodha-Akbar’s story. I never could understand how an immortal love could thrive between them when he had so many wives.  But then, that’s what reels me in. I have devoured literature about them to understand this concept, and this book was no different. I’m not very sure about the history portrayed is correct or not; I read it like another story, like any other fiction.

2)  Diary entries– My second fascination in literature is diary entries and letters. This book was no exception to it. I absolutely loved Mahamaya and Chhimiya in it. Pity they appeared in the last and few pages! My favorite scene was the moth scene in which the romance rises to a crescendo.

What Irked me

1)  Head-hopping telling style of the story– I can see why this style was necessary to condense the story in 359 pages, but I didn’t enjoy the way Mrinalini’s present day story was told. I felt distanced as the sentences jumped from one character to another, without showing any dialogue. This style was once quite famous, but it robs all the joy of even a strong story for me.

2)  Diary Entries– I know I mentioned that I liked them above, but I can like and unlike the same thing, right? My love for diary entries means that my expectations with them are quite high. I loved the way author showed slow wooing and anguish of Jodha-Akbar in these entries, but missed seeing more of Daniel. Although it was a diary of Daniel, much of its beginning entries revolved only around the Mughal Emperor’s story.  I’d have loved them more if they’d been like the later entries which I read twice or thrice.

3)  Incredible Present story incidents– There were a few incredible story scenes with Mrinalini which actually made me laugh. I could see the reason why they were introduced, but they were so filmy that I couldn’t help myself but laugh.

Overall Opinion

I wonder if it was me, or the book really. I liked the story that was in the book, but not the present which was telling the book. As I said above, I felt distanced from the present story characters like Mrinalini and Surajsinh. It left me with an odd dissatisfaction that something more should have been shown in the story.

But, my views aside, Ketan Mehta, a veteran filmmaker, has actually appreciated the novel. It does show the glimpses of that bygone era. Probably it’s my taste for more active novels, or maybe my high expectations, which left me thirsting for something more.  Who knows maybe we’d see its narrative turned into a movie

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Meet the author
 
 
The Author’s Thoughts
A freelance writer, artist, and teacher, Rajeshwari Chauhan has contributed as a script and content writer for many creative and promotional literature, short movies, and plays. A passionate artist, she loves to create realistic paintings on canvas as well as doing wall paintings. For her, painting and creative writing are complementary to each other. Being from the Royal family of Chhota-Udepur, she has always had a fascination for history and conservation of heritage.
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