Announcing my New Book: ‘The Garden of Heaven’

Many years ago, when I was a teenager, a cousin who was much older than me lent me a favourite book of hers: Edward Rutherfurd’s Sarum. Sarum was the ancient name of the city of Salisbury in Wiltshire, England, a place of great antiquity; and Rutherfurd’s Sarum is a novel about interconnected families, their stories playing out against a backdrop of history being created. Beginning with the Ice Age, these characters live their lives as Stonehenge is built, as the Romans invade and then establish a colony in England; as Salisbury Cathedral is erected, as the Black Death grips England… going right up to 1984, this was an epic book that made a huge impression on me. I couldn’t help wondering: given India’s long and fascinating history, wouldn’t it be satisfying to read a book similar to Sarum, but set in India?

Back then, I had no plans to someday become a writer. But finally, a few years back, when I’d written the Muzaffar Jang series and had learnt a good deal about the history of Delhi, Sarum came to mind again, and with it, that long-ago wish that someone would write an Indian equivalent.

Here it is: The Garden of Heaven, the first book in the Delhi Quartet. The Delhi Quartet will span 800 years of Delhi’s history, beginning shortly before the invasion of Mohammad Ghuri, and extending till just after Partition; the first 200 years of that stretch are covered in The Garden of Heaven.

The Garden of Heaven: Book of the Delhi Quartet

After a preliminary episode in which a wealthy merchant of Agroha uproots his family and shifts to Dilli, the story switches to that of a young boy named Madhav. In the wake of the Second Battle of Tarain (1192 CE), Madhav’s village, close to Tarain, is decimated and Madhav left orphaned. With nowhere to go and no-one to call his own, Madhav manages to clamber onto a passing cart, and ends up being befriended by an old stone cutter, Balram. It is Balram, half-blind, crippled, but staunchly pragmatic, who trains Madhav to be a stone cutter too, and who brings Madhav to Dilli.

As the decades pass, as the Slave Sultans set up their own Dilli, the story goes on. Characters live their lives, grappling with issues of identity, of self and self-worth; they seek love, they chase ambition; they try to deal with disappointment and crushing defeat.

And, 200 years after Madhav, there lives in Dilli the lonely and poor Shagufta. When Taimur’s armies attack Dilli and ravage the city in 1398 CE, Shagufta finds herself sheltering a badly wounded enemy soldier. When the wounded man, maddened by the agony, asks Shagufta to talk to him, to tell him something, anything, Shagutfa tells him the stories of Madhav. And of Gayatri and Jayshree, of Girdhar and Chhoti and Ibrahim, all in some way connected to Madhav, all living at some point of time in Dilli. Story upon story, story intersecting with story, lives crossing paths.

Adity Kay, best-selling author of Emperor Chandragupta, Emperor Vikramaditya, and Emperor Harsha, has this to say about The Garden of Heaven:

“A sweeping, enthralling saga… Delhi stars vividly in [Liddle’s] new novel about ordinary people looking for fortune, finding love, caught in self-doubt, torn apart by passion—an unputdownable page-turner.”

And Omair Ahmad, highly acclaimed, award-winning writer, says:

“[Liddle’s] historically informed fiction is deeply researched and consistently engaging. The Garden of Heaven uses the lives of stone masons and the voices of women to tell the story of those that built and adorned the monuments of Delhi, with all the horror, bitterness, misunderstandings, suspicions and love that the city is seeded with.”

If you’re interested in history, do check out The Garden of Heaven. I enjoyed writing this book a lot, trying to find the balance between fact and fiction, trying to understand how life might have been for the common people who lived in the same city and at the same time as Razia Sultan or Amir Khusro.

The Garden of Heaven is available at bookstores and on Amazon India. In fact, bookstores like Goa’s Dogears Book Shop, Pune’s Pagdandi Bookstore Café and Delhi’s Bahri Sons don’t just stock books, they also ship (Dogears and Pagdandi overseas, Bahri Sons within India). Other places online where you can buy the book are Jain Book Agency, and (overseas) Barnes & Noble. Order your copy now (or gift one to someone you think will like this book).

71 thoughts on “Announcing my New Book: ‘The Garden of Heaven’

  1. FANTASTIC NEWS! Is an ebook release planned at all? I’ll buy it anyway even if it’s not, that goes without saying, but a digital release would make shipping a bit faster and more reliable :)

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  2. Hey Madhu!
    What a wonderful surprise to know that there was this book you were working on…..even as you, in your avatar as Dustedoff, kept those posts coming!

    All the very best for the success of “The Garden of Heaven”!
    best wishes, always….
    Praba

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  3. I’ve been waiting for this book for ages, so am definitely going to buy it. It even fits nicely with a nonfiction book I’m currently reading, “Persianate India”. Unfortunately as I type this, neither Dogears nor Pagdandi are listing this book, or any of your works, if their search function is working properly. The B&N option is the only one that is available, and the price (at current exchange rates) of ~4405₹ makes me a bit jealous of your domestic readers 🙂

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  4. Congratulations, Madhu! Can’t wait to read it! (Just wish it came out last month when I was in India for a quick trip – could have grabbed it then!) I will have to see who is travelling to the US soon!

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    • Thank you so much, Anu! It’s available outside India, too – I know Barnes & Noble stock it, and so does Book Depository – but yes, getting someone to bring it over from India will be far less expensive.

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  5. Oh wow, another fan of “Sarum” – not too many people know about it or other books by Rutherford. I remember when I first picked up the book, and I completely fell in love with the grand scale of the book and the concept – of having interconnected stories that span the ages (quite literally).
    I am so excited to see that you are writing something in that ilk. I can only imagine the amount of research that must have gone into writing something like this. Congratulations and all the best for the book’s success.

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    • Thank you! And, I am so glad to have finally found someone else who’s read Sarum. It’s such a shame that almost nobody else seems to have even heard of it. It’s a brilliant book.

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  6. Congratulations and may it turn a best seller. Once I get another book shelf I will start buying books again. The existing one is over flowing with books and others are stacked in my storage bed ! This is tied to my finding a place to settle down finally. May be in the first quarter of next year .
    I will start with the Muzaffar Jung ones first! I know this is pending for eons.

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    • Thank you so very much!

      I know what you mean about more bookshelves. I am in the same boat. We had glass doors attached to our existing ones a couple of years back, and the carpenter said that the shelves were so crowded, they wouldn’t last more than 2-3 years more anyway. Since then, I’ve only added more books to the shelves, and I have a horrible feeling that someday they’re just going to collapse. I need to buy new shelves too, soon.

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  7. Wow! That sounds interesting! Congratulations Madhuji.
    Should get it ASAP.
    May the book turns a best seller.
    All the best!
    👍👍🌷🌷
    And happy Diwali
    🪔🪔🪔🪔🪔🪔
    :-)

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  8. I’m very pleased that another of your life dream has come to fruition. My best wishes for a successful launch.

    Searching for the book on the Internet brings up results of another book with an exactly similar name, but the book is about ‘poems by Hafiz’, and your book is currently unavailable on Amazon, USA — and indeed nor is its eBook version. I hope in dues course it will.

    Best wishes

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  9. Hearty congratulations. It’s indeed a heart-warming news coinciding with the festival of Diwali. The caption reads – ‘A Novel’. That means it’s a work of fiction with a historical background. Must be entertaining and informative, both at the same time.

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    • Thank you! The Garden of Heaven is a work of fiction, but I’ve tried to create as authentic a historic backdrop as I could, and there are several historic characters – Amir Khusro, Razia Sultan, etc – in the story as well, though the focus is on everyday, ordinary people.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Lalitha! I hope you’re able to get it a Barnes & Noble. Given that they’re stocking it online, I think their brick-and-mortar stores should be able to procure it for you, even if they don’t stock it ordinarily.

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  10. Nice to know that your new book is geting published. I remember reading Ken Follet novels ‘pillars of the earth’ and the other sequels covering long periods of time. Also Jefery Archers ‘clifton cronicles’. May be you can also write such sequels as well. Will try to pick up the kindle version.
    All the best for the success of the novel.

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  11. Congratulations, Madhu! This is such an incredible accomplishment and I’m awestruck by the scope of your novel. Hubby will be in Bombay next month and will hopefully be able to bring your book back for me. Cant’ wait!

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    • Thank you so much, Shalini! I do hope you enjoy it. :-)

      A tip: if your husband will be staying with friends or family in Bombay, you can have it delivered beforehand. Besides Amazon, there are indie bookstores like Pagdandi and Dogears (both linked to in this post) who will be able to deliver the book, sparing your husband the need to go looking for it.

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      • Hey Madhu!

        Great to see this on SCROLL!

        (Article by Abdullah Khan w.r.t. your new book “Garden of Heaven” …
        and more….)

        Ref. to
        MEET THE WRITER:

        ‘Human nature doesn’t change’: Madhulika Liddle on the challenges of writing historical fiction — An interview with the author of the Muzaffar Jung series of detective fiction set in 17th century Delhi.
        ————————————-

        And it is so good to know that your historical detective fiction series, featuring 17th century Mughal detective Muzaffar Jang, has been widely read and optioned for a web series!

        Not to be missed….an interesting interview-based article
        + a great fotoo as well!

        Way to go, Madhu!

        LINK:

        https://scroll.in/article/1011442/human-nature-doesnt-change-madhulika-liddle-on-the-challenges-of-writing-historical-fiction
        —————————————–
        My very best to you, in all that you do,

        Praba Mahajan

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  12. Dear Dustedoff! So good to know that you have published the first novel of this intriguing and exciting historical quartet.

    You may remember me from August – September 2020, that newbie to classic Bollywood who was so shaken and stricken with the story of Meena Kumari ‘s tragic decline and sad demise. I moved away from the golden age movies soon enough but detective fiction remains close to my heart.

    I purchased all the Muzaffar Jang ebooks on Amazon as early as October 2020 but could only start reading them (in serial order of publication) this month. I just finished “The Englishman’s Cameo” and I want to tell you how much I liked it, even though you didn’t used to consider it your best work.

    I have been reading detective novels from age 6 to 42 and Muzaffar Jang has all the important qualities we look for in a detective — intelligence, courage, compassion, restraint and not only that necessary hunger for uncovering the truth, but also that rare wisdom to know what to do with it, once you find it.

    I especially adore detective fiction set in the golden era of a bygone age, and found your first novel to be excellent in the grand historical-detective tradition of Steven Saylor’s Roman novels and Paul Doherty’s Ancient Egyptian mysteries, as also Umberto Eco’s “The Name of the Rose.” The motives for murder never change — fear, greed, hatred, shame or the need to ensure the keeping of a secret — and your reasons here were very persuasive indeed, while the novel is also written in a most engaging style that was a joy to read!

    I am sure your Delhi Quartet will be wonderful as well, bringing the history of a great imperial city to glorious life in all its intricacies and intrigues, like Colleen McCullough’s Masters of Rome series.

    May I finish by only noting that it takes a special talent to write detective novels, and that makes your work special, Dear Dustedoff! Your love for the ageless city also shines through these pages, so that I actually presume to suggest with all due respect, this very apt title for your future memoirs: “The Historian’s Sister”. I shall be sure to enjoy the remaining books of the Muzaffar Jang series while waiting patiently for the ebooks of the Dilli Quartet.

    Thank you!

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  13. Hi Madhu! I saw your fine article in the Open Magazine yesterday and noted that you’re already into the 3rd book of the Delhi Quartet! Does that mean the second book is with the publisher already? All the best!

    Like

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