Book of the Month – May 2019

Sophia: Princess, Suffragette, Revolutionary by Anita Anand

Sophia: Princess, Suffragette, Revolutionary by Anita Anand

In 1876 Sophia Duleep Singh was born into royalty. Her father, Maharajah Duleep Singh, was heir to the Kingdom of the Sikhs, a realm that stretched from the lush Kashmir Valley to the craggy foothills of the Khyber Pass and included the mighty cities of Lahore and Peshawar. It was a territory irresistible to the British, who plundered everything, including the fabled Koh-I-Noor diamond.

Exiled to England, the dispossessed Maharajah transformed his estate at Elveden in Suffolk into a Moghul palace, its grounds stocked with leopards, monkeys and exotic birds. Sophia, god-daughter of Queen Victoria, was raised a genteel aristocratic Englishwoman: presented at court, afforded grace-and-favour lodgings at Hampton Court Palace and photographed wearing the latest fashions for the society pages. But when, in secret defiance of the British government, she travelled to India, she returned a revolutionary.

Sophia transcended her heritage to devote herself to battling injustice and inequality,a far cry from the life to which she was born. Her causes were the struggle for Indian independence, the fate of the Lascars, the welfare of Indian soldiers in the First World War – and, above all, the fight for female suffrage. She was bold and fearless, attacking politicians, putting herself in the front line and swapping her silks for a nurse's uniform to tend wounded soldiers evacuated from the battlefields. Meticulously researched and passionately written, this enthralling story of the rise of women and the fall of empire introduces an extraordinary individual and her part in the defining moments of recent British and Indian history.

“Sophia is the sort of remarkable, almost unbelievable untold true story that every writer dreams of chancing upon. A wonderful debut, written with real spirit and gusto. Anita Anand has produced a winner.” – William Dalrymple

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Further reading...

Woman’s Will to Power: The dramatic life of a forgotten suffragette, New Statesman (2015)

With 'Sophia', A Forgotten Suffragette Is Back In The Headlines, NPR (2015)

Sophia Duleep Singh: The Indian princess and ‘rockstar’ suffragette forgotten by history, i (2018)

About the author

Anita Anand is a political journalist who has presented television and radio programmes on the BBC for twenty years. She currently presents Any Answers on Radio 4. She is the author of Sophia: Princess, Suffragette, Revolutionary and, with William Dalrymple, Koh-i-Noor: The History of the World's Most Infamous Diamond. She lives with her husband and two children in London. Her new book, The Patient Assassin, is out now.

Anita Anand

About Hay Festival's Book of the Month

Hay Festival's Book of the Month is our monthly recommendation of a title we've loved and think holds added resonance today. While many recommendations celebrate the new, this is a chance to celebrate great works of fiction, non-fiction and poetry – new and old – that reaches through time to touch the present.

Throughout the month, we'll share interesting links and articles relating to our selection on social media using #HayBookoftheMonth and invite you all to get involved with your questions and comments.

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If you'd like to recommend a book for consideration, please email publicity@hayfestival.org.

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