The Holder of the World

The Holder of the World has been a very intriguing and different read so far. I love how it plays around with perspectives between Beigh’s story and the history of Hannah.

What strikes me the most about Bharati Mukherjee’s The Holder of the World is the beautiful, descriptive language. The opening alone, “I live in three time zones simultaneously, and i don’t mean Eastern, Central and Pacific. I mean the past, the present and the future” (5) draws readers in. There is no way anyone can put the book down without figuring out what that means. When she starts delving into her family’s past and Hannah’s story, we realize how passionate she is about it. We get the sense that she truly feels like she lives it. There are so many moments when we are in Hannah’s story and we are brought back to first-person Beigh for just a second.

The language surrounding Hannah’s embroidery and medical skills was also beautiful. One passage that really stuck out to me was, “In the evenings, she embroidered landscapes – frost stiffening blades of grass, pumpkins glowing like setting suns, butterflies dusting colors off their pastel wings against cassocks of black silk and breeches of velvet, In fact, there was a wildness about Hannah. People sensed it” (62). The imagery evoked some sense that embroidery was Hannah’s rebellion. It was her way of expressing herself in Puritanical America.

It is pointed out that since Hannah embroidered such beautiful things, she had to have such a vivid imagination even before she traveled. It was here that I saw her story relating to Beigh’s the most. When Beigh tours the Fort St. Sebastian ruins we see her imagination run wild here. Although it’s her perspective, as opposed to a narrator’s perspective of Hannah’s embroidery, it seemed similar to how they described Hannah’s embroidery taking on a life of its own. When she says, “I can imagine the customs master, Mir Ali, one of Haider Beg’s appointees, spyglass in hand, noting the names and descriptions of all the ships and cargo that sailed into and out of the Bay of Bengal” (96) I am right there with her. Similarly, I can picture the beautiful pieces that Hannah has embroidered.

Although it’s a little thing, I really loved that Beigh is a graduate student in this book. It makes me feel like I understand her process and her research much more. I definitely connect with this character.


1 thought on “The Holder of the World”

  1. Your last paragraph raises a particularly interesting point about literary research, especially biographical research. Like Beigh, we attempt to “reconstruct” the life of our subject–whether it’s through leaps of imagination (as in the case of Beigh), or possibly through technology (as in the case of Venn), or even through collecting artifacts (as in the case of Bugs Kilken). That’s one of many themes, of course, that Mukherjee explores here but It’s one that particularly intrigues me.


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