Historical Romance Book Review: Love in the Battleground by Kathakali Mukherjee
Love in the Battleground: A Maharashtrian Saga by Kathakali Mukherjee is a very different read. Set in 17th century Maharashtra, it brings Shivaji and his struggle to life. I didn’t know Shivaji was so heroic. Kathakali’s enthusiasm and knowledge comes through. There’s a long historical note in the beginning though- it might have been better to weave the background in the story. Read on for the full historical romance book review.
The novel then begins with a striking image of a lone rider in the great outdoors. Formatting could have been better- although there are 416 pages, there’s text on only a third of the page, so it’s not an lengthy read.
Kathakali breathes life in the forts and the historical period she has chosen. A touching love story blossoms between young Raghupati and Saryu. The sledging of the warriors is realistic- “dilli ki billi” and “Maratha mountain rats” is a nice touch.
There’s a thrilling encounter between the enemies and a stirring speech about Rajputs having resources unlike the Marathas. Although I’ve visited Pratapgarh fort, its historical significance made me look at it with new eyes. I also doubly want to visit Sinhagad fort now.
Kathakali uses contrast well to add nuances to her writing style. There’s a pulsating scene of taking over the fort. Romance gives a respite from warfare. We see that war is unpredictable- a friend today can be an enemy tomorrow. Shivaji treats the ones he has vanquished respectfully. There’s a dramtic scene between Raghupati and Shivaji.
The role of religion is woven well in the story here- the Maratha frustration with a Muslim ruler, their belief in Goddess Bhawani. I liked these lines- “The crowd that was assembled in the court flowed like a river through the gate. The river met in the large human ocean on the Delhi roads.”
The dilemma of a leader is captured well. How can he leave his soldiers behind and escape? We all know the tale of Shivaji’s escape, but the details here bring it to life.