Wow, I really loved this book All the way through, except for the very beginning, which now in retrospect I think was good I was going to give the book four stars By the end, I realized I had come to know Sophia so very well and I liked her so very much that I simply had to give the book five stars I was happy that the author focused on Princess Sophia Alexandra Duleep Singh 1876 1948 , even though any of the siblings could have been the focus of a book.
I will have to backtrack I like Sophia as an ordinary person She had humility and she never sold herself She could have disappeared into history had the author not written this book She may have been a princess, but that is not why I grew to like her so very much.
You pronounce Sophia, not in the ordinary fashion Say so then f then eye The accent is on the last syllable The book starts with a brief history of the Punjab region which comprises today vast areas of northern India and eastern Pakistan and how Sikhism came to be Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus lived together in peace This introduction is brief, and it gives a good background to what follows It needs to be included, even if it is dry and difficult to absorb Then the real story begins with Sophia s famed grandfather, who was King of the Punjab, proceeds to discuss her deposed father and mother and finally focuses on Sophia and her surviving five siblings who grew up at the estate Elveden in Suffolk Here her father recreated a Moghul palace with gardens, leopards, monkeys and exotic birds Queen Victoria was godmother to both Sophia and her oldest brother Victor The fabled Koh I Noor diamond was in fact her family s The first half of the book follows all of the siblings, not just Sophia, so the title is a bit deceptive Sophia was an important woman suffragette, a lover of dogs, a caring woman Her oldest sister Bamba consistently bristled with antagonism Catherine, the next oldest, settled herself with a female lover in Germany and never saw eye to eye over Sophia s menagerie of dogs Even if all three sisters and the brothers, Victor and Freddie and Eddie, were as different as siblings can be, they loved each other You felt this You see them spar against each other, grumble and joke They are family, with all that implies There are half sisters too You follow this entire family At the same time you watch India s path toward independence seen from the Indian perspective You see the role Indian soldiers played in the First World War I have read many books on this war, but never from this angle I have read about suffragettes, but never in such detail You stop and wonder where you would stand I wasn t aware of the virulence involved arson, the stoning of windows the refusal to pay taxes, and the ways in which the suffragettes supported each other Hunger strikes and forced feedings All of this is not only terribly interesting but also movingly told History is told from the perspective of Sophia and her siblings Each of the siblings reacted in their own way Totally fascinating Sophia s letters are gone, but the author has found people who lived with her during the Second World War, evacuees and children and the housemaid What they have to say is revealing The book covers the entire lives of all the family members The audiobook narration by Tania Rodrigues was superb The accent was British, utterly delightful and easy to follow I did have trouble with the Indian names, but this never became a problem The written book and the narration both get five stars I want people to read this book It is the kind of biography that I love because it gets you so close to the people person described, particularly Sophia It also teaches history through one person s life That is how I want history to be taught.
Bio of Indian suffragette Princess Sophia Duleep Singh This is an absolutely amazing story Sophia was the daughter of Duleep Singh, the last maharaja of the Sikh empire who was forced to sign over his power to the British Raj as a boy She was brought up in England, god daughter of Queen, yet still treated like a second class citizen, and she found her purpose in fighting alongside the suffragettes She tried her hardest to get arrested, used her power for publicity, and then when war broke out she made a spectacular contribution to funds for sepoys Indian soldiers, grossly underequipped by the British and worked as a nurse for Sikh soldiers All this while suffering from lifelong and dreadful depression and a spectacularly terrible family life This story is told with a ton of context, starting with Ranjit Singh, the Lion of Punjab, and filling in Gandhi s activities and the struggle for Indian independence I needed this because despite studying British history up to the age of 18, I had precisely no that s zero lessons covering India, an entire continent that the British stole which had a gigantic influence on economics, history, immigration Amazing, isn t it This is hugely readable and compelling, written with vivid description and a lot of jaw dropping stories aboout bad behaviour in high society, as well as the grotesque injustice of the Raj It is incredible how completely a literal princess, who sat next to Besant and Pankhurst on the stage at meetings, has been airbrushed out of the suffragette story Massively recommended.
A fascinating account of the life of Princess Sophia Duleep Singh And what a life it was In fact, we get a whole lot than Sophia s life as the book begins with her family background Her grandfather was the Lion of the Punjab her father had his heritage and wealth stolen from him by the British when just a child and was brought to England to become a favorite plaything of Queen Victoria He grew up to be a womanizing spendthrift, surprise surprise, and his children were regarded with that typical mixture of condescension and suspicion that the Victorians tended to apply to anyone brown For much of their lives they weren t even allowed to visit India because of what they represented in Indian eyes, the former power and glory that the Raj had ended Sophia and her siblings had spies assigned to keep an eye on them their entire lives The British establishment provided them with enough of a living standard to keep them quiet, and their family line died with them.
Sophia seems to have been a woman in search of a purpose in life At one point she became a famous socialite and fashion icon then a successful dog breeder and show competitor and then abandoned it all to throw herself into the suffragette cause she was never prosecuted for her militant activities because of her connection to her godmother Queen Victoria Her life intersected with a whole cast of famous characters and some who should be famous but aren t like her, they were women and or non whites and their stories were systematically hidden from public view.
Author Anita Anand does a thorough, entertaining job with this biography and the audiobook is splendidly narrated by Tania Rodrigues I was sorry when it ended.