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August Book Club Choice

World Beyond, The by Sangeeta Bhargava

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Set in the exotic world of Lucknow, India, in 1855, a time of growing unrest as India tires of its English colonial masters, this novel intertwines the story of two lovers and two worlds. When Salim, an Indian Prince, and Rachael, an English girl, fall in love, defying all preconceptions and prejudice, their worlds collide. And soon their worlds come crashing down around them. As tensions finally break with the Sepoy Mutiny, the ancient city of Lucknow proves one of the most dangerous places to be. Amid the chaos of a city and society consumed in hatred and devastation, Salim and Rachael are forced to choose between their loyalty to each other, their families, and the opposing sides that threaten to raze Lucknow to the ground.

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Suggested Discussion Points:

Author Q&A

Q. Rachael and Salim come together through their love of music. How important is music to you?
G.S., London

A. I was born and brought up in India where music is an integral part of life. Much of Indian classical music as has been referred to in the novel, has now given way to the more popular Bollywood music. But even so, music – whether classical or otherwise, is the voice of the soul. It is something that cuts across all barriers for it is a language that needs no words to be understood. So my answer would be – extremely important.

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Q. How did you carry out your research? Did you spend much time in Lucknow whilst researching the novel?
Rachael Conway, Blackpool

A. I did spend a considerable amount of time visiting all the ancient monuments like the Residency, Kaiserbagh, Bara Imambara etc in Lucknow, where the novel has been set. I also met and spoke to the descendants of the last king of Avadh, historians, history professors and also had a lengthy talk with Asma Husain who designs period costumes for movies and theatre and had an in-depth knowledge about the clothes, shoes and jewellery worn in those days. Then I trolled through some of the old bookshops in the city, which proved to be a treasure trove of books on Lucknow and its historical past. I had them shipped to my home in London where I spent the next three months rummaging through them.

Q. What came first – the idea to write a novel set in Lucknow during the Mutiny, or the desire to write a love story?
Yara Hortzig, London

A. The desire to write a love story. I have always been a sucker for romance.

Q. What other novels set in India would you recommend?
R. Bell, Berkshire

A. Novels set in India – the first ones that come to mind are 'God of Small Things' and 'A Suitable Boy.'

Q. Will your next novel be set in India too? Would you even consider setting your books somewhere else?
M Hale, Leatherhead

A. My next book has already been written so I can tell you that it IS set in India. But for the rest – who knows? If a place outside India inspires me sufficiently to set an entire novel there, then why not?

Q. I understand you previously wrote a book about pregnancy and babycare – how difficult and different was the experience of writing a novel?
Mary Gordon, France

A. Although I found writing the novel much more enjoyable than writing the book on pregnancy and babycare – for the simple reason that every single character, every single scene, every single detail was completely my creation, it was for this very reason that I found it more daunting as well. For the book on pregnancy, I had all the facts, all the notes, all the journal entries; I just had to put them nicely together. But when writing a novel – one has to build the entire book word by word.


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