Goddess of Fire: A Historical Novel Set in 17th Century India. Bharti Kirchner. Severn House Publishers. February 2016. 288 pp. ISBN#: 9780727885502.
As Indian custom dictates, 17 year-old Moorti awaits being forced to join her husband’s funeral pyre in the practice commonly known as Sati. There she will be burned. If she were to refuse, she would literally be considered a “non-person,” dead to all. Moorti’s young blood and intelligence know better but how does one breach the custom and tradition of thousands of years? In a vividly frightening scene, Moorti is placed on the pyre with her husband and the fire is added to her area. Before she can realize what is happening, she sees a white man approaching. Not only does he approach, but he actually forces his way toward her and rescues her from the funeral pyre. Imagine her reaction. Then imagine her fear when she realizes she has defied tradition and is truly a woman without a home or respect.
Job Charnock takes Moorti to safety, where she lives as a servant amid the English traders. Although she’s certainly grateful, she is bored and develops an interest in learning English. In the meantime, Job shows Moorti nothing but respect and affection, even at times stopping others from abusing her. This then is the story of two momentous happenings, both very gradually evolving. The first is that Job and Moorti fall in love with each other. This at first must not be publically shown, for it would place Job’s job in jeopardy. At the same time, he knows that Moorti is a useful peer in their job of obtaining trade deals in the middle of what is fierce competition. But how will she be accepted by the Indian trade leaders?
Goddess of Fire is based on real characters, especially Job Charnock. The novel reflects the prejudices and fierce conflicts between Indians and white traders, while at the same time profiting from each other. It is only the latter bond that keeps the white traders alive but treachery and extinction are also possible from their own people. The beginning of one transaction that could change everything for Job is smoothed into reality by the bargaining and language skills that have made Moorti into the respected and equal partner in the trading world. Money and trade do rule the day! The romance side of this story is compelling reading as well!
Nicely told historical fiction, Bharti Kirchner!