A Beggar at the Gate

Written by Thalassa Ali
Review by Audrey Braver

A Beggar at the Gate continues the adventures of Mariana Givens, a well-educated, unorthodox young Englishwoman who was sent to India in 1838. Mariana’s family hoped she would marry a British army officer. However, circumstances forced her into marriage with a native. It is now 1840, and Mariana journeys from Calcutta to Afghanistan, stopping in Lahore, where she hopes to get an annulment for her unconsummated marriage. She has not seen her husband since their wedding two years earlier. She has endured slander and ostracism because of her marriage, and an annulment will make it possible for her to resume her former life with the improbable chance at a good British marriage. The problem is that Mariana will have to relinquish custody of her stepson. She is torn by her attachment to the boy, who loves her; her own growing affection for her husband; and the possibility of personal freedom. However, affairs of state in the form of a civil war interfere with Mariana’s destiny.

Thalassa Ali is an American who lived for a time in Pakistan. Her writing is full of beautiful historical and visual detail. This is the second of a trilogy. The first, A Singular Hostage, is worth reading and will help the reader understand how the heroine arrived at her present situation.