This reading group guide for The Mountain of Light includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
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Spanning over forty years, The Mountain of Light
follows the story of the coveted Kohinoor, an extraordinary diamond that kingdoms and countries fought to possess. Beginning in 1817, the novel tracks the Kohinoor from Shah Shuja to Maharajah Ranjit Singh to Queen Victoria and chronicles the adventures of the men and women who are touched by its existence. The diamond is embedded in political turmoil that is only perpetuated when it slips from Indian royalty to the English monarchy, and while the Indian Maharajah Dalip Singh attempts to reclaim the Kohinoor from English control, it becomes clear that the fate of the diamond—and India—is already set in stone. Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. The Mountain of Light
features a long list of colorful char- acters. Who is your favorite character in the novel? Who is your least favorite?
2. After visiting Maharani Jindan Kaur, sisters Emily and Fanny Eden debate whether their brother’s desire to invade Afghanistan and their presence in India are appropriate. Emily argues that the East India Company, and England, has a right to be in India. Do you agree with Emily? Explain why or why not.
3. Cultural differences between English and Indian cultures are prevalent throughout the book, from differences in marriage practices to the difference in attire between the Indian and English women. What cultural difference did you find the most interesting? What difference is the most significant? Explain.
4. During a discussion with Henry Lawrence, Misr Makraj, treasurer to Maharajah Ranjit Singh, tells Henry that Shah Shuja was a “pawn in your Afghan war” (p. 153). Do you agree with Misr’s assessment? Who is the biggest pawn in the novel?
5. Were you surprised to learn about Shah Shuja’s ultimate fate? Why or why not?
6. Princess Roshni gives Henry Lawrence the Kohinoor because she believes he’s a good man. Why do you think she believes this? Is she right?
7. Colonel Mackeson is led on a whodunit search when someone steals the Kohinoor from him. He ultimately discovers that the thief is Misr Makraj’s son, Multan Raj. Were you surprised by this discovery? Who did you think took the diamond?
8. From Shah Shuja to Ranjit Singh to the Queen of England, the Kohinoor is coveted—and possessed—by an array of rulers. Who do you think most deserves the diamond?
9. In the opening pages of the novel’s last section, Sophia, Maharajah Dalip Singh’s daughter, is described as knowing “how young sixteen can be” (p. 263). Based on Dalip’s experiences as a teenager, and his observation that “I am now, at sixteen, a grown man,” (p. 269) how subjective are youth and age in The Mountain of Light
? Was Dalip an “older” sixteen than most teenagers? Explain your answer.
10. The Mountain of Light
spans from 1817 until the late 1800s. What period was your favorite to read about and why?
11. Most relationships in The Mountain of Light
are enmeshed in politics and custom. Even some of the most deeply personal relationships, such as the bond between Henry Lawrence and Maharajah Dalip, were also influenced by politics between England and India. What relationship was the most authentic in the novel? What relationship was the least authentic?
12. The story of the Kohinoor is told in third person until the last section, which features first-person narration from Maharajah Dalip Singh. Why do you think the author chose to switch to first person? Was it an effective literary device? Explain your reasoning.
13. Maharajah Dalip Singh describes Lord and Lady Log- in’s dedication to watching after him as waning, observing that “here in England, some . . . thread is broken” between him and his English companions (p. 280). What do you think caused this change in behavior? Does it fore- shadow other treatment Dalip receives from the English?
14. Dalip is left brokenhearted by an unrequited love, Cecilia Bowles. What is the most tragic love story in the novel? What is the most successful? Enhance Your Book Club
1. Learn more about author Indu Sundaresan by visiting her website: http://www.indusundaresan.com/ and following her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/ Indu-Sundaresan/331750008182.
2. Loved The Mountain of Light
? Have an Indu Sundaresan reading challenge! Read the Taj Mahal trilogy and have a bonus discussion about the series.
3. Learn the history behind the fiction. Find out one interesting fact about the characters and the Kohinoor to share with your book club.
4. Have an Indian-themed discussion of The Mountain of Light
. Bring traditional Indian food, music, and other cultural items to share with your book club.