The Goddess and the Thief – Windsor and India – Essie Fox

The Goddess and the Thief and the mystery of the Koi- i- Noor diamond...
The Goddess and the Thief and the mystery of the Koh- i- Noor diamond…

The Goddess and the Thief is an intriguing and exotic gothic tale of passion, obsession, betrayal and deception. With a mystery concerning a real life diamond at its heart.

a diamond

Story in a bejewelled nutshell

Alice who has been brought up in India is taken to England with her father to settle there. Her mother died not long after Alice was born and so her father hopes they can have a fresh start.

Aunt Mercy takes on Alice’s care but she is involved in the occult and works as a spiritualist medium. When Lucian Tilsbury  enters their lives, things become stranger still.

For Tilsbury is obsessed with the Koh-i-Noor diamond, a priceless jewel now owned by Queen Victoria. This diamond holds a special story as it was claimed by the British following the  Anglo-Sikh wars. This Indian stone exerts its power over all who encounter it especially a handsome deposed maharajah determined to claim his rightful throne.

The power of this diamond has far reaching consequences for all those who come in contact with it.

Place and setting

India Benares - Alice lives here at first Palace of Mount Kailash - The Lord Shiva and Sati story is based here Lahore the family moves here to the hills the  surrounding villages have English names and are the setting for Charles Willougby diary entries Windsor Claremont road - where Mercy’s house is Park street house, near castle walls - a mystery happens here London Great Exhibition in london in 1851 - appearances throughout by Prince Albert and Queen Victoria, as well as Maharajah Duleep Singh.
India
D – Benares – Alice lives here at first
C – Mount Kailash – The Lord Shiva and Sati story is based here
B – LAHORE
the family moves here to the hills
the surrounding villages have English names and are the setting for Charles Willougby diary entries
A – Windsor
Claremont Road – where Mercy’s house is
A – London
Great Exhibition in london in 1851 – appearances throughout by Prince Albert and Queen Victoria, as well as Maharajah Duleep Singh.

a diamond

East meets West in this fascinating tale of mystery, mysticism and a much sought after sacred jewel  whose powers transcend far beyond what seems possible. The Koh- Noor diamond is now part of the Crown Jewels and are kept in the Tower of London.

The figure of Duleep as shown in the inside cover of the book  – the Maharajan himself:

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Maharajah Duleep Singh – who claimed the Koh-i-Noor diamond was exiled to Britain but eventually pardoned by Queen Victoria and buried at Elvedon in Suffolk

Those years I lived in India , I think they were my paradise

From the descriptions and the story of the Mythical Koh-i-Noor diamond, this was our paradise too. The history of the Hindu belief and story surrounding Lord Shiva, his goddess bride Parvati and the woman he loved before, Sati, was enchanting and beguiling in equal measure.

Through this story, this legend we lean of the turbulent relationship between Britain and India, the role of the British Empire during the Anglo-Sikh wars and the deposed Maharajah. The sacred Koh-i-Noor diamond is at the centre of it all…..

The Jewel’s light waxes and wanes with the moon. Every new moon is a time of rebirth, of the body as well as the soul.

There is another legend told, that only a Queen may own this jewel… that any man who possess it will be doomed to a dark and terrible fate…..

The mix of a legend, historical reality and serious themes such as the British Anglo-Sikh wars is a fascinating and enchanting mix. This is a novel far beyond Gothic melodrama – it is rich and colourful tapestry.

The complete contrast between England and India at that time – the colourful and sensual nature of Indian culture compared with the repressive nature of Victorian society is shocking as it is chilling. As Alice finds, the veil of respectability slips easily from the English facade. Queen Victoria’s appearance in the novel shows this in a very unique way. 

a diamond

Well this book is just our favourite of the Essie Fox jewel box of novels so far and that’s saying something as both The Somnambulist and Elijah’s Mermaid are two booktrail favourites as well. The story, history and mysticism of the Victorian era, Shiva and the Koh-i-Noor diamond and the backdrop of the Anglo-Sikh wars, Queen Victoria, the Maharajah is absolutely enchanting and utterly compelling and it was a world I did not want to leave.

The English setting of Windsor with its Royal connections, in the midst of a time where social mores and habits of women were curtailed, I felt very sorry for Alice who became so trapped in the plot to steal the diamond that the whole world seemed to fall in on her and it was hard for her to know who to trust. The characters as a whole  – a cast if you will as this was a sumptuous performance – were made up of historical figures, cads, thieves and spiritualists. Fact and fiction mix with mind-blowing effect.

With the theft of a valued diamond as the main story, I rather think that it was Alice’s life and mind which were also stolen and abused at the wishes of the men and women in her life. The plot to steal the diamond drags Alice so far deep into it, that before she realises……well she is exploited again and again, her vulnerability showing the author’s social awareness of the time period.

With social issues, historical detail and a carefully plotted novel, this delivers on many many levels.

Sumptuous velvet layers

And a shining diamond above them all.

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