Title: Victoria and Abdul: The Story of The Queen’s Closest Confidant
Author: Shrabani Basu
Pages: 288 pages (Paperback)
Publication Date: October 13th, 2017
Publisher: Bloomsbury India
The tall, handsome Abdul Karim was just twenty-four years old when he arrived in England from Agra to wait at tables during Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. An assistant clerk at Agra Central Jail, he suddenly found himself a personal attendant to the Empress of India herself. Within a year, he was established as a powerful figure at court, becoming the queen’s teacher, or Munshi, and instructing her in Urdu and Indian affairs.
Devastated by the death of John Brown, her Scottish gillie, the queen had at last found his replacement. But her intense and controversial relationship with the Munshi led to a near-revolt in the royal household. Victoria & Abdul examines how a young Indian Muslim came to play a central role at the heart of the Empire, and his influence over the queen at a time when independence movements in the sub-continent were growing in force. Yet, at its heart, it is a tender love story between an ordinary Indian and his elderly queen, a relationship that survived the best attempts to destroy it.
‘Victoria and Abdul: The Story of The Queen’s Closest Confidant’ by Shrabani Basu, was a fascinating read about an aging monarch and her closest confidant.
Two Indians, Abdul Karim and Mohammed Buksh were summoned by the British Empire to present a Mohor to the Queen. Upon presentation of which Abdul Karim catches the attention of the Queen and is immediately hired as her personal servant. And this marks the beginning of one of the most controversial and mysterious friendship in history.
Karim kept escalating the ladder and became her ‘munshi’ (/teacher), rasing eyebrows in the royal household. They formed a very special bond of love and friendship which kept on growing stronger by the day. Karim’s cultural influence on Queen Victoria and her keen interest in getting to know the sub-continent was taken well at all.
It was a delight to get to know this vulnerable, compassionate and personal side of the Queen, where she befriended an Indian-Muslim and confided in him; where she promoted and stood up for him till she breathed her last breath.
But as soon as Queen Victoria passed away, quite predictably Karim’s family was thrown out of England and all the letters and photographs exchanged between him and the Queen were burnt. Efforts were made to keep no trace of their tender and unusual, love and friendship.
But, Sharabani Basu does a wonderful job in reminding us about the forgotten friendship. Her writing is very easy to follow and is engrossing. Her vivid descriptions of the happenings and the surroundings, transports you directly to the Victorian Era. The snippets from newspapers and entries from journals, showed how well researched the book is and made my journey through the novel so much more interesting. Also, the pictures of the Queen and Abdul Karim and others were a treat to the eyes. However, you may find the pace a bit on the slower side and honestly, I’m not really a fan of movie tie-up book covers.
My Verdict: ‘Victoria and Abdul: The Story of The Queen’s Closest Confidant’ by Shrabani Basu is an informative and enlightening novel which almost seems like fiction. It is very well researched but is still debatable. Will recommended it to the fans of both historical fiction and non-fiction.
My Rating: 4/5
‘Victoria and Abdul: The Story of The Queen’s Closest Confidant’ available in e-book and paperback.