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Companions of Paradise


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About the Author

Thalassa M Ali was born in Boston, Massachusetts, USA, the daughter of two archaeologists: one English and one American. She received her bachelor,s degree in fine arts from Radcliffe College in 1962. A year later she married a young man from Lahore, Pakistan, and moved to that country, where she remained for twelve years, dividing her time between Karachi and Lahore. Widowed suddenly at the age of thirty-one, she spent her last three years in Pakistan carrying on her deceased husband,s businesses. After returning to Boston with her two children in 1975, she became a stockbroker. While her children were growing up, she worked at various investment houses, managing money for individual clients. In 1993, with her children launched, she turned to writing. Ali,s love for Pakistan has remained strong over the past twenty-six years. She converted to Islam in 1984 on one of her many visits there. She is a member of Tauhidia, a Sufi brotherhood, whose headquarters are in Karachi. While still living in Pakistan, she began collecting books on nineteenth-century India with the intention of writing about that time and place. This is her first novel.


This final volume of Ali's colonial India trilogy (following A Singular Hostage and A Beggar at the Gate) takes place in Kabul, Afghanistan, where Mariana Givens and her fellow Brits are living in a military camp. Tensions between the Afghanis and the British are on the rise, but the British feel that their military might and modern weaponry are enough to crush the Afghan rebels. Mariana's marriage to Hassan Ali Khan makes her an outcast, since Englishwomen aren't expected to interact with the "natives." The two are separated and may divorce; the status of their marriage drives much of the plot. Mariana vacillates between hoping they'll stay married so that she can continue to learn from Hassan's aunt, a charismatic Muslim mystic, and hoping for divorce so that she can take up with former flame Harry Fitzgerald and lead a traditional life. As the situation in Kabul deteriorates and becomes violent, Mariana once again steps up to help protect the people she has grown to love. Despite the historical context, the clash between Christianity and Islam seems contemporary and relevant given current world events. Recommended for popular and historical fiction collections.-Nanette Donohue, Champaign P.L., IL Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

'Ali writes as well about the scandalous disregard of the British for a proud nation as she does on the power of faith and love' Nottingham Evening Post" -- Nottingham Evening Post 20061202 'Betrayal, love, fighting and history abound in this gripping novel based on true events, and Ali's years of meticulous research and obvious passion for Pakistan only leave the reader wanting more' Western Mail" -- Western Mail 20061209 'The theme running through this novel is very fitting, as the long-running conflict involving British troops inAfghanistan continues. Thalassa Ali uses her own experiences about cross-cultural relationships to tell the story of English-born Mariana Givens' struggle to stay loyal to her British roots, but also to her adored [Indian] husband' Newcastle Upon Tyne Sunday Sun -- Newcastle Upon Tyne Sunday Sun 20061210 'She writes beautifully about the ruggedAfghanistan landscape, the smells of the markets, and descriptions of the various tribes! This is a very readable book that recalls a different epoch in British army history' Folkstone Herald -- Folkstone Herald 20061221 'Once you start reading a Thalassa Ali novel, you simply won't be able to put it down' The Friday Times", Pakistan -- The Friday Times, Pakistan 20061221 'A wonderful tale of eastern intrigue and western sensibilities' She magazine, Pakistan -- She magazine, Pakistan 20061221 'Companions of Paradise" is a well paced, colourful narrative that keeps the reader hooked til the end' Newsline, Pakistan -- Newsline, Pakistan 20061221 'Ali...writes with such a sure hand... Companions of Paradise is a curiously readable book' The Hindu,

The final installment of Thalassa's Paradise Trilogy (following A Singular Hostage and A Beggar at the Gate) finds Mariana Givens living within the confines of the British cantonment at Kabul in 1841, on the eve of the first Afghan war. An assassination attempt in Lahore thwarted by her husband, Hassan Ali Khan (son of a Sufi sheikh), has forced Mariana to leave Lahore, abandoning Hassan (and her stepson, Saboor). Mariana lives miserably in an English microsociety that doesn't recognize her marriage, full of dinner parties and eager suitors. Hassan, meanwhile, is recovering slowly from wounds, and his family is second-guessing Mariana's intentions. As tension escalates between the British (who have deposed the Afghan king, Amir Dost Muhammad, and installed a more friendly rival, Shah Shuja) and the Afghans (who are preparing to attack the British army and its 10,000 "camp followers"), Mariana faces dangerous choices. As in the other books, Ali does a highly credible job creating the clannish atmospheres of the British and Sufi subcultures, and makes the strictures that Mariana and Hassan face (and those of their servants) palpable. The detail she offers (including mystic writings from a variety of traditions) is nicely wedded to the plot, which moves with brisk and engaging efficiency. (Apr.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

Adult/High School-This is the concluding volume in Ali's trilogy about Victorian India and Afghanistan during the 1840s, and for full enjoyment and understanding, the books should be read in order. In A Singular Hostage (2002) and A Beggar at the Gate (2004, both Bantam), Mariana Givens goes to India in search of a husband, presumably among the British officers of the Raj, but marries an Indian man. Unsure of what to do in these unsettled times, she leaves her husband and returns to the British enclave. In this book, the Afghan War is beginning, and Mariana is caught in a life-or-death journey through a country at war and struggling to decide where she belongs. Ali portrays the clash of power and politics of two rigid cultures, and has re-created a lush and exotic place that exists side by side with poverty and cruelty. This final book concludes the sprawling story of an epic time in Middle Eastern history and is filled with vividly drawn characters who give the history a human face.-Jane Halsall, McHenry Public Library District, IL Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

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