Doctor Margaret's Sea Chest

On June 24, 2011, in Historical Literature - Fiction, by Waheed Rabbani

Doctor Margaret’s Sea Chest, is Book I of a trilogy of historical fiction set during India’s struggle for freedom—Azadi—from the British Raj. The Books weave a tale of international intrigue, conflict, and poignant love between interesting characters of that era.

In 1965 an over 100-year-old sea chest, believed to be that of an American doctor, Margaret, is discovered in the storage room of a hospital in Delhi. Another American doctor, Sharif, who originally hails from Delhi and is on contract at the hospital, is entrusted with the task of locating the mysterious woman’s relatives and returning her trunk. Sharif tracks down Margaret’s descendants in Grimsby, Ontario, Canada. Her diaries, and other artefacts—such as the Kingdom of Jhansi’s crown—are found in the coffer.

Margaret, born in New Jersey to a Scottish Presbyterian clerical family, achieves her heart’s desire, in 1850, to become one of the first North American women doctors. She marries her Canadian cousin, Robert, and travels with him to serve in the Crimean war of 1854. In Crimea, they have to not only face hardships of battles, but also endure other conflicts.

From events leading to and after the infamous Charge of the Light Brigade, Margaret meets a Russian officer, Count Nicholai. The surprise ending of Book I, leaves Margaret in a quandary, whether to seek vengeance or to continue on with her journey to India. In the end, she believes she has made the right decision.

What the Beta Readers of Dr. Margaret’s Sea Chest have said …

“Very impressive intriguing novel, filled with mysterious circumstances and suspense. The story unfolds combining interesting historic facts to the present with descriptive vivid imagination. The characters surrounding Doctor Margaret’s Sea Chest are alive and introduced to us in a gripping way, colourfully taking us back in time. I commend this book to be a very enjoyable read … my interest was captivated to the very end … ”
—Micheline Beniusis, English Teacher

“The story takes one on an adventurous trip with a compelling mission to discover a life lived through different continents, warfare, joys and sorrows. Portrays lives in 19th century, exposes the reader to understand our diverse societies and cultures considering history and changing times. The captivating story often kept me up way after the midnight hours till the end …”
—Al Beniusis, Accountant

“I can see this story as a ‘Masterpiece Theatre’ movie—just thinking of the costumes and the dramas is exciting. You set each side of the border in such picturesque settings, in Grimsby, Niagara-on-the-Lake and New Jersey. We all see some of the Persian and Indian settings on a regular basis on the news today. Most of the costumes are available already…”
—Diana Stevens-Guille, School Principal

“The basic story I did enjoy. The plot was developed in such a way that I did want to find out more about Margaret and how her life is linked to the contemporary story…”
—Dr. Janette MacDonald, Mount Sinai Hospital, Toronto

“Story was very intriguing and enjoyable and kept me wanting to read and know more—it grabbed me right from the beginning … enjoyed the jumping from past to present and the history/period descriptions it provides …”
—Dr. Josie Marciello, Toronto

“I like the idea of the dream at the beginning of the novel … The plot is not only captivating, there is an aura of mystery—and the conflict between Margaret and her family fuels the fire as there is tension on all fronts. The setting that you have chosen is the beautiful 1960s, in stark contrast with the 1850s. You have described them beautifully … the first person narration is very effective…”
—Sheila Abedin, Human Resources Professional

“The first person, first Doctor Wallidad, then the grandfather and Margaret, is an effective approach … the story is good, weaving the past and present dramas. You have included so much detail on Margaret’s life that is really interesting. It held my interest throughout … I believe that the historical element of this story enhances its interest. The details of the underground railroad and the Crimean War are great. Adding Florence Nightingale also adds interest. The promised detail about the rebellion also sustained my interest. You have included much rich detail …”
—Margaret Smith, Senior Advisor, Socio-Economic Assessment

“The frame story? Yes, it works … Although I must admit I prefer Margaret’s story. Partly because it’s historical and partly because of her personality … I like your descriptions of settings. They’re evocative. Well done. I also like how Dr. Walli notices gardens wherever he goes. This is one memorable aspect of his personality …”
—Guylaine Spencer, Hamilton, Ontario

“Two plot frames? I like it. Adds richness and depth to the story … It was a very effective opening. It definitely gives incentive to wade into the introductory section of the story. Also really enjoyed how we kept coming back to that dream, the woman on horseback, hair streaming. It helped tie Walli’s story together and tie him to Margaret as well. Was it an enjoyable read? It usually takes me a month to read a novella. I read your novel in 2½ weeks. You decide.”
—Stephanie Hill, Dress Designer.

AMAZON REVIEWS:
5.0 out of 5 stars history brought to life, June 8, 2011
By Joseph King – See all my reviews
This review is from: Doctor Margaret’s Sea Chest (Paperback)
This is historical fiction which has a truly astonishing wealth of detail and a very strong sense of place. Set in two different time frames, 100 years apart, one story is about Dr Margaret who becomes one of America’s first wooman doctors determined to serve humanit. The second is set in 1965 and recounts the adventures of Dr Walli who has been asked to find and return Dr Margaret’s sea chest to any living relatives.
Dr Margaret’s journals recount her journey to work in the Crimea and offer a fascinating glimpse into life and conditions.
The sections set in India have such wonderful descriptions bringing the country to life so the reader feels he or she is there. The author certainly knows his subject.
The plot twists and turns and moves at a cracking pace. It is a huge story.
Reviewed by Mary Smith No More Mulberries

4.0 out of 5 stars I look forward to the other 2 books in this trilogy, February 4, 2011
By Farzana Doctor (Toronto) – See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)
This review is from: Doctor Margaret’s Sea Chest (Paperback)
I just finished “Doctor Margaret’s Sea Chest”, a novel by Waheed Rabbani. It’s an interesting story about a young female doctor’s life in the 1800′s, told through her diaries. Interspersed with details about the underground railroad, Crimean War and India’s 1857 First War of Independence, this book kept me curious until the end. There is also lovely personal drama; Dr. Margaret encounters her share of love, betrayal. disappointment and struggle.

The narrative moves back and forth between Dr. Margaret and a more contemporary protagonist, Dr. Walli, who is charged with bringing home her mysterious sea chest from India to Grimsby, Ontario. Although I found her narrative more compelling and his a little awkward at times, the author braids their two stories seamlessly and reveals their fascinating ancestral connections.

Don’t judge this book by its cover (which at first reminded me of the sort of cover art found in YA novels). This book is for adults and will interest those who love a good mystery and the well researched detailing of a historical fiction. It’s part of “The Azaadi Trilogy” and I look forward to reading Books 2 and 3.

5.0 out of 5 stars An intriguing read, October 3, 2010
By EO – See all my reviews
This review is from: Doctor Margaret’s Sea Chest (Paperback)
Nearing the end of his medical stay in Delhi in the 1960′s, soon to return to America, Dr. Sharif is approached by hospital staff to return an old sea chest that has been left abandoned for over one hundred years. When Dr. Sharif agrees, so opens up a story full of intrigue, struggle, romance, betrayal, history and much, much more. The sea chest belonged to a Margaret Wallace, an American female doctor working as a missionary in India during India’s revolution in the mid-1800′s. Among other things, a diary is found inside, documenting the story of her life.

Doctor Margaret proves an intriguing and well-developed character, way ahead of her time; from a little girl she is set on becoming a doctor and working in India. To help her family out, employed as a cleaning girl at a local clinic, she is thrilled to learn about a Medical College for Women in Philadelphia. She says in her diary, “I dreamt of studying in classrooms with floors and walls of polished mahogany hardwood and performing and experimenting in the laboratories, wearing those white coats.” Breaking all social rules of the 1800′s, Margaret’s determination helps her realize her dreams, making her a pioneer in the women’s movement. But the novel is also a story of romance, as Margaret falls in love with and marries her Canadian cousin Robert, and follows him to the Crimea, where he is serving in the war.

The book moves rapidly and in two timelines, from the mid 1800′s to the 1960′s. It covers much territory, from Delhi, to the Niagara region, to London, and includes events such as the Crimean War, the Underground Railroad, and India’s struggle for independence from the Raj. It is obvious Waheed Rabbani did a lot of research, only to skilfully interweave his findings with intrigue and drama.

A bit on the formal side (but in a good way, adding to the authenticity), the writing is rich with dialogue and description. Some of my favorite lines are right near the beginning. Dr. Sharif describes driving in Delhi, where he finds himself “…overtaking an overcrowded bus, with passengers hanging on for dear life from the doors and even poised on rear bumpers …” He adds, “Bicyclists weaved in and around the moving cars, buses, taxis and rickshaws.”

A debut novel and the first of a trilogy, Doctor Margaret’s Sea Chest is as much entertaining as it is educational. An most intriguing read. Am looking forward to the second installment.

3.0 out of 5 stars Doctor Margaret’s Seachest, September 1, 2010
By D. Blackwood “Mystee” (Arizona) – See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)
This review is from: Doctor Margaret’s Sea Chest (Paperback)
This is an interesting historical read. We follow Margaret through many twists and turns in her goals to not just be the same as every other female in the 1800s.

She grew up as the child of a minister and wanted to be a doctor. She didn’t want to be seen as women were in that time period. She wanted to be more.

A neat twist in this book: it’s not actually told in the 1800s. It’s told in the 1960s by someone who found her chest filled with stories to her life. You do need to pay attention and follow the book. It’s a refreshing way to get a little history as someone is discovering things that were a hundred years before them. It does do some back and forth century changing, but I didn’t find it hard to follow.

There’s also more history included as you dig through Margaret’s Seachest and learn some various cultural traditions. This books combine many areas: Russia, India, England, etc.

A handy glossary is included at the back of the book to help with some terms.

I found this book to be a very entertaining read. It’s perfect for a colder night, a nice fire and a cup of tea.

5.0 out of 5 stars A Satisfying Tale, August 14, 2010
By Lady Dragoness “Lady D.” (Deep South, USA) – See all my reviews
This review is from: Doctor Margaret’s Sea Chest (The Azadi Trilogy) (Kindle Edition)
Doctor Margaret’s Sea chest is historical fiction, set in the mid 1800′s in North America, England, Crimea and India. The saga covers India’s struggle for freedom. This rather long tale is but one third of a more massive saga, yet it is nicely paced. There is a nice balance between drama, romance, and suspense which serves to keep the story consistently interesting, but it is mainly focused on the action rather than too much description.

The characters are well-developed enough that I could feel Margaret’s despair when her family disapproved of her desire to marry her cousin, her jubilation at finally becoming a doctor as she wanted, despite the disapproval of her parents, and her other emotions as the story progressed. As I finished the last pages of this book, I felt as if I were leaving friends behind. In fact, I am so hooked on the story that the cliff-hanger ending has me sitting on the edge of my chair while awaiting Book II of The Azadi Trilogy: The Rani’s Doctor.

Almost as interesting as the novel, there is a glossary at the end of the story which defines the unfamiliar words used so that the reader can get more from the novel than would be the case if he/she were just skipping over the unfamilar words without understanding them.

Recommended reading for those who love reading historical fiction and also for those looking for something refreshingly different. Mobi format file received free from author in exchange for this review. This review is simultaneously published on Dragon Views, LibraryThing, Amazon.com and YA Books Central.

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
4.0 out of 5 stars Evocative in Many Places, A Pleasure to Read, August 5, 2010
By Sacramento Book Review “Sacramento Book Review” (Sacramento, CA) – See all my reviews
This review is from: Doctor Margaret’s Sea Chest (Paperback)
A two-track story, //Doctor Margaret’s Sea Chest// tracks the life of Margaret Wallace and her quest to become a female doctor in the 1850s, and Dr. Wallidad Sharif, a male doctor in the 1960s, who is working in Delhi. At the end of his contract, Dr. Walli is asked to return an old sea chest to America that has been sitting abandoned in the hospital for one hundred years. Walli’s subsequent adventures in returning the chest provides a historical look at the Cold War era and the unraveling of Margaret’s story though her journals and family history provides an intriguing look at life in 1800s, particularly the 1857 Sepoy Mutiny and the place of women in that period.

Rabbani’s writing is evocative in many places and a pleasure to read. His details of India and the period bring it to life for modern readers, providing insights to the culture and events that shape modern India. The action-adventure part of the story, while entertaining, is more James Bond-ish than the rest of the book, and isn’t as compelling as Margaret’s tale of pursuing her medical dreams against opposition from her family and society. The theme of freedom resonates throughout, both at a national level – India and Canada’s pursuit of independence, the American slave trade, and Margaret’s personal search for freedom in her life. Well-crafted and first in a planned series.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars An epic adventure spanning generations and continents., June 15, 2010
By F. L. Justice (Brooklyn, NY) – See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)
This review is from: Doctor Margaret’s Sea Chest (Paperback)
“Doctor Margaret’s Sea Chest” is the first book in a sprawling epic trilogy by Waheed Rabbani. The story in this debut novel spans over a hundred years and half the world; from mid-1960′s India to pre-Civil War America. But the story always returns to the themes of freedom–national, personal, and gender. We have national struggles for independence, slaves being transported along the “Underground Railroad” from the U.S. to Canada, and the struggle of one young woman to fulfill her destiny and become a doctor.

It starts with the story of Dr. Walidad Sharif, an American doctor living in Delhi for a year–”giving back” to his family’s country for his good fortune. The reader gets a beautiful evocation of the city–its architecture, culture, history, poverty, and diversity–through Dr. Sharif’s encounters with staff and his extended family. I loved the intimate details of different cultures: greetings, clothes, food. I could smell the curry and see the dancing girl at a family gathering. Dr Sharif learns of his own families’ involvement in the famous Indian “Mutiny” of 1857 (also known as India’s First War of Independence) through his grandfather’s journal.

But at the heart of this visit is a mystery: an unopened sea chest belonging to an American lady doctor (it’s unknown whether she’s from the US or Canada) who was a missionary in India during the rebellion. She disappeared and no one knows her fate. Dr. Sharif is tasked with finding her heirs (if they exist) and returning the sea chest to them when he returns home. But the existence of the artifact has caught the attention of the Soviet KGB who attempt to steal it. And when he accomplishes his mission, Dr. Sharif gets a visit from the CIA.

The historical action then turns to the owner of the sea chest: Dr. Margaret Wallace. Through her diaries we follow her yearning as a girl and young woman to become a physician (against the wishes of her family and society), her romance with her handsome Canadian cousin (against the wishes of both their families), and her subsequent trip to India via the Crimea War and the Charge of the Light Brigade. By the end, some questions are answered, but not all, setting the reader up for the second book in the trilogy.

Waheed Rabbani brings his own international experience to this sweeping story: born in India; educated in Pakistan, England and Canada; he grew up reading Victorian and Edwardian literature; drawn to the stories of the British Raj and India’s struggle for independence. His take on this story from India’s point of view is refreshing and entertaining.

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
4.0 out of 5 stars History and romance do mix, June 6, 2010
By Mary J. Gramlich “The Reading Reviewer” (St. Louis, MO) – See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE) (TOP 1000 REVIEWER) (REAL NAME)
This review is from: Doctor Margaret’s Sea Chest (Paperback)
The story of Doctor Margaret Wallace is told through family history, folklore and the three volumes of her diary. She is a woman you struggled not to become just another female statistic during the mid-1800′s. Margaret wanted what was perceived as an unattainable goal – to become a doctor. She realized the joy of healing and saving lives and fought her parents, a system set up against her and the disapproval of society who viewed her as part of a weaker sex.

During this voyage of her life as the story unfolds we are given insight to the plight of life as a minister’s child, trying to be with the man she loves and the struggles of India to gain freedom from England.

What is unique about this story is that it is told in the setting of the mid 1960′s by a man who discovers Dr. Margaret’s sea chest and is given the duty of returning it to her family. Knowing nothing about who the people are or how to find them the journey begins for Doctor Walidad “Walli” Sharif an American doctor living in India for a year. Through his wife’s connections in Canada the sea chest and Walli are tossed here and there until it is returned to the descendents of Dr. Wallace and the adventure for Walli really beings. What Walli and his wife never thought would happen is encounters with the FBI, CIA and KGB all in the same day. This is thought to be a simple sea chest owned by a gentile woman but too soon they all discover there is so much to be learned from Dr. Margaret’s history that Walli reads the journals and turns them into the most intriguing historical documentary.

In writing this review there was so many aspects to cover about this book but it was very difficult to explain without giving too much away. This is a book that requires you to pay close attention to the details and absorb all the history that is being retold from a participant’s point of view that are living a hundred years apart in time. It may be hard to switch from one century to another for some readers but if you stay with the book you will quickly learn that both POVs are critical to the storyline and as equally engaging. What stood out for me in particular were Margaret and Robert who even at their most venerable were still strong and independent thinkers. Margaret’s depth of character as both a doctor and a woman revealed her capacity to be everything she wanted and more as she is ready to take on anyone that dare hurt her or her family.

Mary Gramlich is “The Reading Reviewer” located at [...]

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
4.0 out of 5 stars A Compelling Tale, March 14, 2010
By Michael R. Dyet (Toronto, ON, Canada) – See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)
This review is from: Doctor Margaret’s Sea Chest (Paperback)
“Doctor Margaret’s Sea Chest” takes the reader on an intriguing journey spanning India, the U.S. and Canada complete with encounters with the KGB and the FBI. Along the way there is romance, intrigue, treachery and adventure. In short, there is a never a dull moment in this first book of a historical fiction trilogy.

The novel alternates between the perspectives of Doctor Wallidad Sharif in the 1960′s and Doctor Margaret Wallace (one of the first female doctors in the U.S.) in the 1850′s. Both perspectives are effectively presented. But, as the novel progresses, Margaret’s perspective comes to the fore and carries the plot. In his portrait of Doctor Wallace, Waheed Rabbani paints a vivid picture of a determined woman ahead of her time. A shocking development late in Book 1 reveals yet another side of this intrepid heroine.

All of this is played out against the backdrop of historical events. I can’t comment on the accuracy with which these events are portrayed but they certainly ring true. If you enjoy historical fiction, I highly recommend “Doctor Margaret’s Sea Chest”. It’s a compelling tale from a skilled novelist.

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing Asian-American Romance and Mystery, February 6, 2010
By
D. Johanyak “Author, Behind the Veil: An Amer… (Midwest) – See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)
This review is from: Doctor Margaret’s Sea Chest (Paperback)
Waheed Rabbani’s historical novel takes readers on an epic journey to meet key families representing three continents down through several generations since the 1850s. The book opens with a helpful family tree diagram of the Wallace, Barinowsky and Sharif families, followed by a first-person Prologue to draw readers into the fictional narrative woven into a dream sequence. The author sets the time period of 1965 with topical references to the Beetle vehicle and fashion observations, and notes the setting at locations like Dufferin Hospital. The use of native Indian dialect places the reader within the story as though walking by the side of the introspective narrator. Flowers like oleanders, hibiscus, and roses provide colorful detail to set the India scenes, along with the cultural and seasonal languor of an unhurried sunset: “the late afternoon sun stretched its lazy, golden fingers through my second-floor office windowpanes, signalling the end of the day….” (p. 16). Descriptions of Delhi help readers to visualize this exotic Asian land in preparation for the suspenseful story. As the plot unfolds, references to the Mughal Empire and surrounding regions of Sikhs, Persians, and Afghans locate the reader securely against the history-laced backdrop. Mr. Rabbani does a fine job of describing and intersecting two distinct cultures – that of title character Margaret in the 1800s, and the Indian narrator’s 100 years later in the 1960s. Landmarks like Humayun’s tomb bring India to life for global readers as well as intertwine historical events of India’s Revolution with the narrator’s personal family history.

Rabbani offers his readers more than mere entertainment by providing explanations of Indian and Muslim customs and greetings as well as a brief history of Canada’s fight for independence. Throughout the story the narrator pursues the philosophical notion of azadi, or freedom, to interest readers from any time period and culture, for we are all intrigued by the haunting lure of personal, cultural, or national freedoms. Perhaps the most symbolic gesture of freedom is when Margaret’s parents help the African-American slave Harriet and her parents escape to Canada.

The intrigue of Margaret Wallace’s history begins in the first chapter with the assigned task of returning her just-located sea trunk left in India to any relatives that might be alive. Dr. Walli’s connection to the 1857 Indian Rebellion forges a link to the long-gone Dr. Margaret and her mysterious trunk. Thus early in the book are readers drawn to the puzzling significance of the trunk to Indian freedom and Margaret’s Russian descendents.

Tension builds early on with the Cold War as backdrop to a Russian embassy worker trying to get the sea chest from Dr. Walli. The doctor’s subsequent discoveries of his grandfather’s journal and a very special map and poster lead to amazing implications that draw Dr. Walli and his beautiful wife more deeply into the mystery of Dr. Margaret’s shadowy past. Rather than spoil the plot with too many details, let me conclude by emphasizing the painstaking research Mr. Rabbani has taken with his novel to highlight facts from the quest for freedom in India, the U.S., and Canada. Above it all rises the contemplative Dr. Walli and the elusive Margaret who haunts his dreams in a quest for the peace that only he can give her.

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars Great debut novel…, January 31, 2010
By Stacey Pierce – See all my reviews
This review is from: Doctor Margaret’s Sea Chest (Paperback)

I thoroughly enjoyed reading the story of Doctor Margaret’s Sea Chest written by Waheed Rabbani. This book is a debut novel and the first in his trilogy. Mr. Rabbani’s book keeps you engaged from beginning to end as he allows you to journey back and forth between the mid-1800′s and 1965 in Delhi, India and other parts of the world. The story discusses the lives of Dr. Margaret Wallace and Dr. Wallidad Sharif. Dr. Wallace wanted to be a doctor since– she heard the minister first tell the story of doctor’s helping sick children in India and receiving her first doctor’s kit from her aunt and uncle–as her mother mocked her occupational desires. I applaud her for standing strong against those who felt during that time a woman shouldn’t be a doctor.
Mr. Rabbani is a talented storyteller guiding us on a journey with a first person account of the history of the Indian Rebellion and the role Dr. Margaret Wallace, an American born doctor from New Jersey, played in both the rebellion and Dr. Sharif’s family history. It connects these two doctors although they never met in the present.
American doctor, Dr. Sharif, is in Delhi on assignment in the 60′s and at the end of his contractual term, he is asked to return an abandoned sea chest belonging to Dr. Wallace back to her family. The chest is 100 years old, in good condition, and hasn’t been opened since it was left in a closet at a hospital in Delhi. No one knows the contents as they feel it is disrespectful to open it prior to it being passed on to Dr. Wallace’s surviving family members allowing them to search the contents. The chest peaks the interest of Russian agents forcing Dr. Sharif to give them a fake chest in place of the real one they wanted resulting in a violent altercation during the meeting with the Russian agents. Luckily, the real chest is shipped to Dr. Sharif’s home safely.
Dr. Sharif tracks her descendants back to Canada and accompanied by his wife, he returns the unopened chest to Dr. Wallace’s family. Upon entering the home, Dr. Sharif realizes a picture in the home happens to be the woman that has been visiting him in his nightmares–Dr. Margaret Wallace. Once the chest is opened, it unmasks hidden treasures, artifacts, and Dr. Wallace’s diaries. The stories in the diary connect Dr. Wallace and Dr. Sharif through ancestry and her life spent in India.
Mr. Rabbani paints a picturesque journey through various places during different moments in history all the while the stories remain poignantly vivid. I could see the clothing, smell the spices, see Dr. Wallace’s well-kept chest, and visualize each character as I eagerly turned each page. This book is alive with– mystery, suspense, conflict and love–along with a piece of history I never learned about in school, splashed throughout. I recommend this book and anxiously await the next book in the trilogy.

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating read, January 13, 2010
By Werner Manke “Author of Secrets of Hawking Manor” – See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)
Amazon Verified Purchase(What’s this?)
This review is from: Doctor Margaret’s Sea Chest (Paperback)
Dr. Margret’s Sea Chest is an intriguing novel. Written in the first person it gives the impression of reading a firsthand account. It captures the reader’s interest quickly by creating a sense of proximity to the action. Set in both of the middle of the nineteenth century and middle of the twentieth century in India and North America, I found the historical and cultural references of those times added richness and interest to the stories told. The characters come alive in the reader’s mind. Their actions, dreams, struggles, loves, hates and the dangers confronting them make for drama, mystery and suspense. Margaret becomes unforgettable, lingering with the reader long after turning the last page of the novel.

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
4.0 out of 5 stars A Touch of James Bond, A Dash of Historical Fiction, And A Major Dose of Indian History, November 4, 2009
By Tara (Utah) – See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)
This review is from: Doctor Margaret’s Sea Chest (Paperback)
I am somewhat on the fence with this one. On one hand, I really enjoyed Margaret’s story. A young woman in 1840s early America and Canada wanting to break all the rules and become a doctor really appeals to me. On the other hand, however, the other parts did about a male doctor in the 1960s didn’t interest me that much. His character was likeable, but his parts had a James Bond type feel to them, partly due to the 1960s setting and partly due to the action and mystery and Russians with guns. I kept expecting his pretty Indian nurse or the Russian bookseller to throw themselves at him.

While Walli is trying to transport and solve the mystery of the hundred year old sea chest and dodging either bullets or avoiding car chases, the book takes us back to 1841 and Margaret wanting to be a doctor as well as having a forbidden romance with her cousin, Robert. I like Margaret’s parts, but must question her going off with men and riding unescorted and unchaperoned in 1847. Young, unmarried ladies did not do that back then, most especially, minister’s daughters. Too often, her story felt too modern and not 1847ish enough.

However, there was enough excitement and history to keep me intrigued. I enjoyed the romance between Margaret and Robert and I also liked reading about how Margaret ignored all the naysayers (mainly her parents) and became a doctor despite of all the hurdles in her path. Despite the historical innaccuracies and the modern day feel, I really liked her story. The Indian history merged with it very nicely.

Whereas Margaret’s story could have used some tweeking as far as the cotton candy and running around unescorted and other things that stood out (Did they have water BOTTLES back then? How is it that Margaret’s aunt seems familiar with her kids, but hasn’t seen Margaret in years?) , Walli’s parts were enriched with impeccable research. This author knows his Indian history.

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
4.0 out of 5 stars A whale of a story, September 24, 2009
By Paul Svendsen “author” (Reno, NV) – See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)
This review is from: Doctor Margaret’s Sea Chest (Paperback)
Waheed Rabbini is a serious author and Doctor Margaret’s Sea Chest is a well-researched, serious novel crammed full of intrigue, suspense, odd situations, interesting geographical locations and more. There is a little bit of paranormal action, in that some of the main characters have dreams that are disturbingly real. The main action in the present takes place in Delhi, India We are led through Canada., the Crimea, Russia and most importantly the mid-19th century and the Sepoy rebellion The sea chest itself belongs to Doctor Margaret and contains her revealing journals that go in large part toward explaining the mystery. A good read and well-worth further information.

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Read, September 23, 2009
By Carole A. Sutton (Australia) – See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)
This review is from: Doctor Margaret’s Sea Chest (Paperback)
My husband, Bill, is a voracious reader. He is also an impatient reader and slaps away books that fail to engage him in a very short time. He’s not one for writing, so he asked me to tell you that he thoroughly enjoyed Doctor Margaret’s Sea Chest, and would like to know how soon he can see book 2 in this triology. In short, his message is to say, “It’s terrific!”
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars A SPLENDID STORY, July 4, 2009
By Author D. B. Pacini “Author & Youth Writing M… (California) – See all my reviews
This review is from: Doctor Margaret’s Sea Chest (Paperback)
Margaret, the main character, fascinates me from the beginning of this novel to the end. As a lovely child, she charmed me with her inquisitive mind. As a young woman, she impressed me with her determination to become a doctor when society adamantly blocked women from seeking careers in male dominated fields. This beautiful Margaret, this strong willed, capable, quick-witted, and resourceful woman, repeatedly triumphs over tremendous challenges to become an inspiring and admirable female role model in her time in history and in ours.

Waheed Rabbani successfully creates a persuasive tale filled with international plots and guarded secrets. This story connects readers with characters living in 1965, as well as with characters that lived more than a hundred years before. American doctor Wallidad Sharif is originally from Delhi. He has returned to his birth country on a one year medical contract. When the assignment nears its end, he is asked to do a fascinating task. An ancient and securely locked sea chest has been discovered in a hospital storage room. It is believed to be over 100 years old, the property of one of America’s first female doctors, Dr. Margaret Wallace. Will Dr. Sharif take possession of her sea chest, and try to locate her descendants in the United States and in Canada? Dr. Sharif and his wife Alexandra accept this intriguing undertaking and are soon thrown into a web of danger and conspiracy, being pursued by Russian agents, related to a priceless hidden royal crown, authentic war maps, and remarkable events of history not recorded in modern day history books.

I highly recommend this book. It is the first in a trilogy, and author Waheed Rabbani masterfully delivers. He is a new literary voice worthy of your attention. I anxiously await the second novel in this trilogy.

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
4.0 out of 5 stars Connecting the dots in history, June 29, 2009
By Shane K. Joseph (Canada) – See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)
Amazon Verified Purchase(What’s this?)
This review is from: Doctor Margaret’s Sea Chest (Paperback)
Waheed (Wally) Rabbani covers a very interesting period in history in this first of a trilogy of novels. The sweep spans the Underground Railway into Canada, the Crimean War, Dickensian London, the Indian Revolution of 1857 (quite overshadowed in recent times by the one in 1947 that led to that country’s independence), the Charge of the Light Brigade (I did not know that it was a spectator event, where a viewing gallery watched the carnage in the valley below), Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, and even Florence Nightingale. In addition, the modern part of the story, set in the 1960′s, pits those eternal cold war warriors, the CIA and the KGB, in a hunt for the lost diaries of Doctor Margaret. This book therefore, is a thoroughly engaging adventure, with liberal doses of love, betrayal,loss,suppression, emancipation, war, espionage and great historical detail of life in the 1800′s in Upper Canada, the neighboring states in America, India, England and Europe.

Doctor Margaret and the narrator Doctor Wally (sometimes I wonder if the author is referring to himself, and if there is more fact to this book than fiction) are well drawn characters with many parallels between them: stoic, bold, both Americans who married Canadians residing in Grimsby, Ontario which also seems to be the epicentre of this tale spanning the centuries, and both who have a connection with India. By appearing to him as a ghost, Margaret is luring Wally into uncovering and revealing the story of her life through the diaries that have been lying in her abandoned sea chest – a story that connects Wally’s ancestry and heritage to Margaret’s life in India.

The plot moves fast and over multiple locations, and the back story is revealed through a combination of dialogue, diary and investigation. I found the dialogue a bit too proper at times and wondered whether that was reflective of the colonial era, or the colonial writer?

Book #1 documents Margaret’s life in Grimsby, England and the Crimea, but doesn’t quite get us to her Indian period, yet also hints to a Russian period to follow. For that we will have to wait for books 2 and 3. Therefore, the end left me hanging, as Wally (the writer)did not complete the puzzle: Margaret’s life, and death, still remains a mystery.That said, I will eagerly await book #2…and #3.

Shane Joseph [...]

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent debut novel, March 18, 2009
By History and Women “Rosaria Babbore” (Alberta, Canada) – See all my reviews
This review is from: Doctor Margaret’s Sea Chest (Paperback)
Doctor Margaret’s Sea Chest

In a hospital in New Delhi, forgotten in a small storage room, lies an unclaimed sea chest, locked and untouched, for more than one hundred years old. The sea chest once belonged to a woman named Margaret, one of the first female American doctors. In 1965 another American doctor named Sharif is given the task of searching for Doctor Margaret’s descendents who are believed to be living in Grimsby, Ontario, Canada, and return the trunk to them. But things are never simple, and when the contents of the trunk are revealed, Sharif finds himself embroiled in mystery and intrigue that will propel him into the annals of history. From Russia to India, from Canada to America, from the Charge of the Light Brigade to the Underground railroad, this novel takes the reader on a most unforgettable journey into several sensitive times and places in history.

In this richly researched novel, Waheed Rabbani seamlessly weaves unrelated tidbits of history into one compelling novel. Through the words in Doctor Margaret’s diary, we get a glimpse into a time in America where slavery prevailed and to face inexplicable danger was the only escape. Rabbani knows how to write with detail, painting vivid pictures of items, places, and characters. For anyone interested in these eras of history, then this novel will certainly bring it to life with great vividness.

Dr. Margaret’s Sea Chest is the first book in a trilogy about India’s struggle for freedom – Azadi from the Raj.

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars ………a thoroughly enjoyable, easy read, March 15, 2009
By Allan Dempster “Al Dempster” (Grimsby, ON, Canada) – See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)
This review is from: Doctor Margaret’s Sea Chest (Paperback)
Doctor Margaret’s Sea Chest is a thoroughly enjoyable, easy read. Through flashbacks, this historical novel offers a fascinating portrait of 19th century life. The venues move from North America to India and on to the Ukraine. You gain insight into the Indian Rebellion and also, the Charge of the Light Brigade during the Crimean War. The book gains momentum as you follow Margaret’s diaries and by the end you are absolutley hooked….Can’t wait for the follow up book.

Doctor Margaret’s Sea Chest, is Book I of a trilogy of historical fiction set during India’s struggle for freedom—Azadi—from the British Raj. The Books weave a tale of international intrigue, conflict, and poignant love between interesting characters of that era.

In 1965 an over 100-year-old sea chest, believed to be that of an American doctor, Margaret, is discovered in the storage room of a hospital in Delhi. Another American doctor, Sharif, who originally hails from Delhi and is on contract at the hospital, is entrusted with the task of locating the mysterious woman’s relatives and returning her trunk. Sharif tracks down Margaret’s descendants in Grimsby, Ontario, Canada. Her diaries, and other artefacts—such as the Kingdom of Jhansi’s crown—are found in the coffer.

Margaret, born in New Jersey to a Scottish Presbyterian clerical family, achieves her heart’s desire, in 1850, to become one of the first North American women doctors. She marries her Canadian cousin, Robert, and travels with him to serve in the Crimean war of 1854. In Crimea, they have to not only face hardships of battles, but also endure other conflicts.

From events leading to and after the infamous Charge of the Light Brigade, Margaret meets a Russian officer, Count Nicholai. The surprise ending of Book I, leaves Margaret in a quandary, whether to seek vengeance or to continue on with her journey to India. In the end, she believes she has made the right decision.

What the Beta Readers of Dr. Margaret’s Sea Chest have said …

“Very impressive intriguing novel, filled with mysterious circumstances and suspense. The story unfolds combining interesting historic facts to the present with descriptive vivid imagination. The characters surrounding Doctor Margaret’s Sea Chest are alive and introduced to us in a gripping way, colourfully taking us back in time. I commend this book to be a very enjoyable read … my interest was captivated to the very end … ”
—Micheline Beniusis, English Teacher

“The story takes one on an adventurous trip with a compelling mission to discover a life lived through different continents, warfare, joys and sorrows. Portrays lives in 19th century, exposes the reader to understand our diverse societies and cultures considering history and changing times. The captivating story often kept me up way after the midnight hours till the end …”
—Al Beniusis, Accountant

“I can see this story as a ‘Masterpiece Theatre’ movie—just thinking of the costumes and the dramas is exciting. You set each side of the border in such picturesque settings, in Grimsby, Niagara-on-the-Lake and New Jersey. We all see some of the Persian and Indian settings on a regular basis on the news today. Most of the costumes are available already…”
—Diana Stevens-Guille, School Principal

“The basic story I did enjoy. The plot was developed in such a way that I did want to find out more about Margaret and how her life is linked to the contemporary story…”
—Dr. Janette MacDonald, Mount Sinai Hospital, Toronto

“Story was very intriguing and enjoyable and kept me wanting to read and know more—it grabbed me right from the beginning … enjoyed the jumping from past to present and the history/period descriptions it provides …”
—Dr. Josie Marciello, Toronto

“I like the idea of the dream at the beginning of the novel … The plot is not only captivating, there is an aura of mystery—and the conflict between Margaret and her family fuels the fire as there is tension on all fronts. The setting that you have chosen is the beautiful 1960s, in stark contrast with the 1850s. You have described them beautifully … the first person narration is very effective…”
—Sheila Abedin, Human Resources Professional

“The first person, first Doctor Wallidad, then the grandfather and Margaret, is an effective approach … the story is good, weaving the past and present dramas. You have included so much detail on Margaret’s life that is really interesting. It held my interest throughout … I believe that the historical element of this story enhances its interest. The details of the underground railroad and the Crimean War are great. Adding Florence Nightingale also adds interest. The promised detail about the rebellion also sustained my interest. You have included much rich detail …”
—Margaret Smith, Senior Advisor, Socio-Economic Assessment

“The frame story? Yes, it works … Although I must admit I prefer Margaret’s story. Partly because it’s historical and partly because of her personality … I like your descriptions of settings. They’re evocative. Well done. I also like how Dr. Walli notices gardens wherever he goes. This is one memorable aspect of his personality …”
—Guylaine Spencer, Hamilton, Ontario

“Two plot frames? I like it. Adds richness and depth to the story … It was a very effective opening. It definitely gives incentive to wade into the introductory section of the story. Also really enjoyed how we kept coming back to that dream, the woman on horseback, hair streaming. It helped tie Walli’s story together and tie him to Margaret as well. Was it an enjoyable read? It usually takes me a month to read a novella. I read your novel in 2½ weeks. You decide.”
—Stephanie Hill, Dress Designer.

AMAZON REVIEWS:
5.0 out of 5 stars history brought to life, June 8, 2011
By Joseph King – See all my reviews
This review is from: Doctor Margaret’s Sea Chest (Paperback)
This is historical fiction which has a truly astonishing wealth of detail and a very strong sense of place. Set in two different time frames, 100 years apart, one story is about Dr Margaret who becomes one of America’s first wooman doctors determined to serve humanit. The second is set in 1965 and recounts the adventures of Dr Walli who has been asked to find and return Dr Margaret’s sea chest to any living relatives.
Dr Margaret’s journals recount her journey to work in the Crimea and offer a fascinating glimpse into life and conditions.
The sections set in India have such wonderful descriptions bringing the country to life so the reader feels he or she is there. The author certainly knows his subject.
The plot twists and turns and moves at a cracking pace. It is a huge story.
Reviewed by Mary Smith No More Mulberries

4.0 out of 5 stars I look forward to the other 2 books in this trilogy, February 4, 2011
By Farzana Doctor (Toronto) – See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)
This review is from: Doctor Margaret’s Sea Chest (Paperback)
I just finished “Doctor Margaret’s Sea Chest”, a novel by Waheed Rabbani. It’s an interesting story about a young female doctor’s life in the 1800′s, told through her diaries. Interspersed with details about the underground railroad, Crimean War and India’s 1857 First War of Independence, this book kept me curious until the end. There is also lovely personal drama; Dr. Margaret encounters her share of love, betrayal. disappointment and struggle.

The narrative moves back and forth between Dr. Margaret and a more contemporary protagonist, Dr. Walli, who is charged with bringing home her mysterious sea chest from India to Grimsby, Ontario. Although I found her narrative more compelling and his a little awkward at times, the author braids their two stories seamlessly and reveals their fascinating ancestral connections.

Don’t judge this book by its cover (which at first reminded me of the sort of cover art found in YA novels). This book is for adults and will interest those who love a good mystery and the well researched detailing of a historical fiction. It’s part of “The Azaadi Trilogy” and I look forward to reading Books 2 and 3.

5.0 out of 5 stars An intriguing read, October 3, 2010
By EO – See all my reviews
This review is from: Doctor Margaret’s Sea Chest (Paperback)
Nearing the end of his medical stay in Delhi in the 1960′s, soon to return to America, Dr. Sharif is approached by hospital staff to return an old sea chest that has been left abandoned for over one hundred years. When Dr. Sharif agrees, so opens up a story full of intrigue, struggle, romance, betrayal, history and much, much more. The sea chest belonged to a Margaret Wallace, an American female doctor working as a missionary in India during India’s revolution in the mid-1800′s. Among other things, a diary is found inside, documenting the story of her life.

Doctor Margaret proves an intriguing and well-developed character, way ahead of her time; from a little girl she is set on becoming a doctor and working in India. To help her family out, employed as a cleaning girl at a local clinic, she is thrilled to learn about a Medical College for Women in Philadelphia. She says in her diary, “I dreamt of studying in classrooms with floors and walls of polished mahogany hardwood and performing and experimenting in the laboratories, wearing those white coats.” Breaking all social rules of the 1800′s, Margaret’s determination helps her realize her dreams, making her a pioneer in the women’s movement. But the novel is also a story of romance, as Margaret falls in love with and marries her Canadian cousin Robert, and follows him to the Crimea, where he is serving in the war.

The book moves rapidly and in two timelines, from the mid 1800′s to the 1960′s. It covers much territory, from Delhi, to the Niagara region, to London, and includes events such as the Crimean War, the Underground Railroad, and India’s struggle for independence from the Raj. It is obvious Waheed Rabbani did a lot of research, only to skilfully interweave his findings with intrigue and drama.

A bit on the formal side (but in a good way, adding to the authenticity), the writing is rich with dialogue and description. Some of my favorite lines are right near the beginning. Dr. Sharif describes driving in Delhi, where he finds himself “…overtaking an overcrowded bus, with passengers hanging on for dear life from the doors and even poised on rear bumpers …” He adds, “Bicyclists weaved in and around the moving cars, buses, taxis and rickshaws.”

A debut novel and the first of a trilogy, Doctor Margaret’s Sea Chest is as much entertaining as it is educational. An most intriguing read. Am looking forward to the second installment.

3.0 out of 5 stars Doctor Margaret’s Seachest, September 1, 2010
By D. Blackwood “Mystee” (Arizona) – See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)
This review is from: Doctor Margaret’s Sea Chest (Paperback)
This is an interesting historical read. We follow Margaret through many twists and turns in her goals to not just be the same as every other female in the 1800s.

She grew up as the child of a minister and wanted to be a doctor. She didn’t want to be seen as women were in that time period. She wanted to be more.

A neat twist in this book: it’s not actually told in the 1800s. It’s told in the 1960s by someone who found her chest filled with stories to her life. You do need to pay attention and follow the book. It’s a refreshing way to get a little history as someone is discovering things that were a hundred years before them. It does do some back and forth century changing, but I didn’t find it hard to follow.

There’s also more history included as you dig through Margaret’s Seachest and learn some various cultural traditions. This books combine many areas: Russia, India, England, etc.

A handy glossary is included at the back of the book to help with some terms.

I found this book to be a very entertaining read. It’s perfect for a colder night, a nice fire and a cup of tea.

5.0 out of 5 stars A Satisfying Tale, August 14, 2010
By Lady Dragoness “Lady D.” (Deep South, USA) – See all my reviews
This review is from: Doctor Margaret’s Sea Chest (The Azadi Trilogy) (Kindle Edition)
Doctor Margaret’s Sea chest is historical fiction, set in the mid 1800′s in North America, England, Crimea and India. The saga covers India’s struggle for freedom. This rather long tale is but one third of a more massive saga, yet it is nicely paced. There is a nice balance between drama, romance, and suspense which serves to keep the story consistently interesting, but it is mainly focused on the action rather than too much description.

The characters are well-developed enough that I could feel Margaret’s despair when her family disapproved of her desire to marry her cousin, her jubilation at finally becoming a doctor as she wanted, despite the disapproval of her parents, and her other emotions as the story progressed. As I finished the last pages of this book, I felt as if I were leaving friends behind. In fact, I am so hooked on the story that the cliff-hanger ending has me sitting on the edge of my chair while awaiting Book II of The Azadi Trilogy: The Rani’s Doctor.

Almost as interesting as the novel, there is a glossary at the end of the story which defines the unfamiliar words used so that the reader can get more from the novel than would be the case if he/she were just skipping over the unfamilar words without understanding them.

Recommended reading for those who love reading historical fiction and also for those looking for something refreshingly different. Mobi format file received free from author in exchange for this review. This review is simultaneously published on Dragon Views, LibraryThing, Amazon.com and YA Books Central.

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
4.0 out of 5 stars Evocative in Many Places, A Pleasure to Read, August 5, 2010
By Sacramento Book Review “Sacramento Book Review” (Sacramento, CA) – See all my reviews
This review is from: Doctor Margaret’s Sea Chest (Paperback)
A two-track story, //Doctor Margaret’s Sea Chest// tracks the life of Margaret Wallace and her quest to become a female doctor in the 1850s, and Dr. Wallidad Sharif, a male doctor in the 1960s, who is working in Delhi. At the end of his contract, Dr. Walli is asked to return an old sea chest to America that has been sitting abandoned in the hospital for one hundred years. Walli’s subsequent adventures in returning the chest provides a historical look at the Cold War era and the unraveling of Margaret’s story though her journals and family history provides an intriguing look at life in 1800s, particularly the 1857 Sepoy Mutiny and the place of women in that period.

Rabbani’s writing is evocative in many places and a pleasure to read. His details of India and the period bring it to life for modern readers, providing insights to the culture and events that shape modern India. The action-adventure part of the story, while entertaining, is more James Bond-ish than the rest of the book, and isn’t as compelling as Margaret’s tale of pursuing her medical dreams against opposition from her family and society. The theme of freedom resonates throughout, both at a national level – India and Canada’s pursuit of independence, the American slave trade, and Margaret’s personal search for freedom in her life. Well-crafted and first in a planned series.

For more information visit [...].
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars An epic adventure spanning generations and continents., June 15, 2010
By F. L. Justice (Brooklyn, NY) – See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)
This review is from: Doctor Margaret’s Sea Chest (Paperback)
“Doctor Margaret’s Sea Chest” is the first book in a sprawling epic trilogy by Waheed Rabbani. The story in this debut novel spans over a hundred years and half the world; from mid-1960′s India to pre-Civil War America. But the story always returns to the themes of freedom–national, personal, and gender. We have national struggles for independence, slaves being transported along the “Underground Railroad” from the U.S. to Canada, and the struggle of one young woman to fulfill her destiny and become a doctor.

It starts with the story of Dr. Walidad Sharif, an American doctor living in Delhi for a year–”giving back” to his family’s country for his good fortune. The reader gets a beautiful evocation of the city–its architecture, culture, history, poverty, and diversity–through Dr. Sharif’s encounters with staff and his extended family. I loved the intimate details of different cultures: greetings, clothes, food. I could smell the curry and see the dancing girl at a family gathering. Dr Sharif learns of his own families’ involvement in the famous Indian “Mutiny” of 1857 (also known as India’s First War of Independence) through his grandfather’s journal.

But at the heart of this visit is a mystery: an unopened sea chest belonging to an American lady doctor (it’s unknown whether she’s from the US or Canada) who was a missionary in India during the rebellion. She disappeared and no one knows her fate. Dr. Sharif is tasked with finding her heirs (if they exist) and returning the sea chest to them when he returns home. But the existence of the artifact has caught the attention of the Soviet KGB who attempt to steal it. And when he accomplishes his mission, Dr. Sharif gets a visit from the CIA.

The historical action then turns to the owner of the sea chest: Dr. Margaret Wallace. Through her diaries we follow her yearning as a girl and young woman to become a physician (against the wishes of her family and society), her romance with her handsome Canadian cousin (against the wishes of both their families), and her subsequent trip to India via the Crimea War and the Charge of the Light Brigade. By the end, some questions are answered, but not all, setting the reader up for the second book in the trilogy.

Waheed Rabbani brings his own international experience to this sweeping story: born in India; educated in Pakistan, England and Canada; he grew up reading Victorian and Edwardian literature; drawn to the stories of the British Raj and India’s struggle for independence. His take on this story from India’s point of view is refreshing and entertaining.

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
4.0 out of 5 stars History and romance do mix, June 6, 2010
By Mary J. Gramlich “The Reading Reviewer” (St. Louis, MO) – See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE) (TOP 1000 REVIEWER) (REAL NAME)
This review is from: Doctor Margaret’s Sea Chest (Paperback)
The story of Doctor Margaret Wallace is told through family history, folklore and the three volumes of her diary. She is a woman you struggled not to become just another female statistic during the mid-1800′s. Margaret wanted what was perceived as an unattainable goal – to become a doctor. She realized the joy of healing and saving lives and fought her parents, a system set up against her and the disapproval of society who viewed her as part of a weaker sex.

During this voyage of her life as the story unfolds we are given insight to the plight of life as a minister’s child, trying to be with the man she loves and the struggles of India to gain freedom from England.

What is unique about this story is that it is told in the setting of the mid 1960′s by a man who discovers Dr. Margaret’s sea chest and is given the duty of returning it to her family. Knowing nothing about who the people are or how to find them the journey begins for Doctor Walidad “Walli” Sharif an American doctor living in India for a year. Through his wife’s connections in Canada the sea chest and Walli are tossed here and there until it is returned to the descendents of Dr. Wallace and the adventure for Walli really beings. What Walli and his wife never thought would happen is encounters with the FBI, CIA and KGB all in the same day. This is thought to be a simple sea chest owned by a gentile woman but too soon they all discover there is so much to be learned from Dr. Margaret’s history that Walli reads the journals and turns them into the most intriguing historical documentary.

In writing this review there was so many aspects to cover about this book but it was very difficult to explain without giving too much away. This is a book that requires you to pay close attention to the details and absorb all the history that is being retold from a participant’s point of view that are living a hundred years apart in time. It may be hard to switch from one century to another for some readers but if you stay with the book you will quickly learn that both POVs are critical to the storyline and as equally engaging. What stood out for me in particular were Margaret and Robert who even at their most venerable were still strong and independent thinkers. Margaret’s depth of character as both a doctor and a woman revealed her capacity to be everything she wanted and more as she is ready to take on anyone that dare hurt her or her family.

Mary Gramlich is “The Reading Reviewer” located at [...]

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
4.0 out of 5 stars A Compelling Tale, March 14, 2010
By Michael R. Dyet (Toronto, ON, Canada) – See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)
This review is from: Doctor Margaret’s Sea Chest (Paperback)
“Doctor Margaret’s Sea Chest” takes the reader on an intriguing journey spanning India, the U.S. and Canada complete with encounters with the KGB and the FBI. Along the way there is romance, intrigue, treachery and adventure. In short, there is a never a dull moment in this first book of a historical fiction trilogy.

The novel alternates between the perspectives of Doctor Wallidad Sharif in the 1960′s and Doctor Margaret Wallace (one of the first female doctors in the U.S.) in the 1850′s. Both perspectives are effectively presented. But, as the novel progresses, Margaret’s perspective comes to the fore and carries the plot. In his portrait of Doctor Wallace, Waheed Rabbani paints a vivid picture of a determined woman ahead of her time. A shocking development late in Book 1 reveals yet another side of this intrepid heroine.

All of this is played out against the backdrop of historical events. I can’t comment on the accuracy with which these events are portrayed but they certainly ring true. If you enjoy historical fiction, I highly recommend “Doctor Margaret’s Sea Chest”. It’s a compelling tale from a skilled novelist.

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing Asian-American Romance and Mystery, February 6, 2010
By
D. Johanyak “Author, Behind the Veil: An Amer… (Midwest) – See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)
This review is from: Doctor Margaret’s Sea Chest (Paperback)
Waheed Rabbani’s historical novel takes readers on an epic journey to meet key families representing three continents down through several generations since the 1850s. The book opens with a helpful family tree diagram of the Wallace, Barinowsky and Sharif families, followed by a first-person Prologue to draw readers into the fictional narrative woven into a dream sequence. The author sets the time period of 1965 with topical references to the Beetle vehicle and fashion observations, and notes the setting at locations like Dufferin Hospital. The use of native Indian dialect places the reader within the story as though walking by the side of the introspective narrator. Flowers like oleanders, hibiscus, and roses provide colorful detail to set the India scenes, along with the cultural and seasonal languor of an unhurried sunset: “the late afternoon sun stretched its lazy, golden fingers through my second-floor office windowpanes, signalling the end of the day….” (p. 16). Descriptions of Delhi help readers to visualize this exotic Asian land in preparation for the suspenseful story. As the plot unfolds, references to the Mughal Empire and surrounding regions of Sikhs, Persians, and Afghans locate the reader securely against the history-laced backdrop. Mr. Rabbani does a fine job of describing and intersecting two distinct cultures – that of title character Margaret in the 1800s, and the Indian narrator’s 100 years later in the 1960s. Landmarks like Humayun’s tomb bring India to life for global readers as well as intertwine historical events of India’s Revolution with the narrator’s personal family history.

Rabbani offers his readers more than mere entertainment by providing explanations of Indian and Muslim customs and greetings as well as a brief history of Canada’s fight for independence. Throughout the story the narrator pursues the philosophical notion of azadi, or freedom, to interest readers from any time period and culture, for we are all intrigued by the haunting lure of personal, cultural, or national freedoms. Perhaps the most symbolic gesture of freedom is when Margaret’s parents help the African-American slave Harriet and her parents escape to Canada.

The intrigue of Margaret Wallace’s history begins in the first chapter with the assigned task of returning her just-located sea trunk left in India to any relatives that might be alive. Dr. Walli’s connection to the 1857 Indian Rebellion forges a link to the long-gone Dr. Margaret and her mysterious trunk. Thus early in the book are readers drawn to the puzzling significance of the trunk to Indian freedom and Margaret’s Russian descendents.

Tension builds early on with the Cold War as backdrop to a Russian embassy worker trying to get the sea chest from Dr. Walli. The doctor’s subsequent discoveries of his grandfather’s journal and a very special map and poster lead to amazing implications that draw Dr. Walli and his beautiful wife more deeply into the mystery of Dr. Margaret’s shadowy past. Rather than spoil the plot with too many details, let me conclude by emphasizing the painstaking research Mr. Rabbani has taken with his novel to highlight facts from the quest for freedom in India, the U.S., and Canada. Above it all rises the contemplative Dr. Walli and the elusive Margaret who haunts his dreams in a quest for the peace that only he can give her.

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars Great debut novel…, January 31, 2010
By Stacey Pierce – See all my reviews
This review is from: Doctor Margaret’s Sea Chest (Paperback)

I thoroughly enjoyed reading the story of Doctor Margaret’s Sea Chest written by Waheed Rabbani. This book is a debut novel and the first in his trilogy. Mr. Rabbani’s book keeps you engaged from beginning to end as he allows you to journey back and forth between the mid-1800′s and 1965 in Delhi, India and other parts of the world. The story discusses the lives of Dr. Margaret Wallace and Dr. Wallidad Sharif. Dr. Wallace wanted to be a doctor since– she heard the minister first tell the story of doctor’s helping sick children in India and receiving her first doctor’s kit from her aunt and uncle–as her mother mocked her occupational desires. I applaud her for standing strong against those who felt during that time a woman shouldn’t be a doctor.
Mr. Rabbani is a talented storyteller guiding us on a journey with a first person account of the history of the Indian Rebellion and the role Dr. Margaret Wallace, an American born doctor from New Jersey, played in both the rebellion and Dr. Sharif’s family history. It connects these two doctors although they never met in the present.
American doctor, Dr. Sharif, is in Delhi on assignment in the 60′s and at the end of his contractual term, he is asked to return an abandoned sea chest belonging to Dr. Wallace back to her family. The chest is 100 years old, in good condition, and hasn’t been opened since it was left in a closet at a hospital in Delhi. No one knows the contents as they feel it is disrespectful to open it prior to it being passed on to Dr. Wallace’s surviving family members allowing them to search the contents. The chest peaks the interest of Russian agents forcing Dr. Sharif to give them a fake chest in place of the real one they wanted resulting in a violent altercation during the meeting with the Russian agents. Luckily, the real chest is shipped to Dr. Sharif’s home safely.
Dr. Sharif tracks her descendants back to Canada and accompanied by his wife, he returns the unopened chest to Dr. Wallace’s family. Upon entering the home, Dr. Sharif realizes a picture in the home happens to be the woman that has been visiting him in his nightmares–Dr. Margaret Wallace. Once the chest is opened, it unmasks hidden treasures, artifacts, and Dr. Wallace’s diaries. The stories in the diary connect Dr. Wallace and Dr. Sharif through ancestry and her life spent in India.
Mr. Rabbani paints a picturesque journey through various places during different moments in history all the while the stories remain poignantly vivid. I could see the clothing, smell the spices, see Dr. Wallace’s well-kept chest, and visualize each character as I eagerly turned each page. This book is alive with– mystery, suspense, conflict and love–along with a piece of history I never learned about in school, splashed throughout. I recommend this book and anxiously await the next book in the trilogy.

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating read, January 13, 2010
By Werner Manke “Author of Secrets of Hawking Manor” – See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)
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This review is from: Doctor Margaret’s Sea Chest (Paperback)
Dr. Margret’s Sea Chest is an intriguing novel. Written in the first person it gives the impression of reading a firsthand account. It captures the reader’s interest quickly by creating a sense of proximity to the action. Set in both of the middle of the nineteenth century and middle of the twentieth century in India and North America, I found the historical and cultural references of those times added richness and interest to the stories told. The characters come alive in the reader’s mind. Their actions, dreams, struggles, loves, hates and the dangers confronting them make for drama, mystery and suspense. Margaret becomes unforgettable, lingering with the reader long after turning the last page of the novel.

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
4.0 out of 5 stars A Touch of James Bond, A Dash of Historical Fiction, And A Major Dose of Indian History, November 4, 2009
By Tara (Utah) – See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)
This review is from: Doctor Margaret’s Sea Chest (Paperback)
I am somewhat on the fence with this one. On one hand, I really enjoyed Margaret’s story. A young woman in 1840s early America and Canada wanting to break all the rules and become a doctor really appeals to me. On the other hand, however, the other parts did about a male doctor in the 1960s didn’t interest me that much. His character was likeable, but his parts had a James Bond type feel to them, partly due to the 1960s setting and partly due to the action and mystery and Russians with guns. I kept expecting his pretty Indian nurse or the Russian bookseller to throw themselves at him.

While Walli is trying to transport and solve the mystery of the hundred year old sea chest and dodging either bullets or avoiding car chases, the book takes us back to 1841 and Margaret wanting to be a doctor as well as having a forbidden romance with her cousin, Robert. I like Margaret’s parts, but must question her going off with men and riding unescorted and unchaperoned in 1847. Young, unmarried ladies did not do that back then, most especially, minister’s daughters. Too often, her story felt too modern and not 1847ish enough.

However, there was enough excitement and history to keep me intrigued. I enjoyed the romance between Margaret and Robert and I also liked reading about how Margaret ignored all the naysayers (mainly her parents) and became a doctor despite of all the hurdles in her path. Despite the historical innaccuracies and the modern day feel, I really liked her story. The Indian history merged with it very nicely.

Whereas Margaret’s story could have used some tweeking as far as the cotton candy and running around unescorted and other things that stood out (Did they have water BOTTLES back then? How is it that Margaret’s aunt seems familiar with her kids, but hasn’t seen Margaret in years?) , Walli’s parts were enriched with impeccable research. This author knows his Indian history.

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
4.0 out of 5 stars A whale of a story, September 24, 2009
By Paul Svendsen “author” (Reno, NV) – See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)
This review is from: Doctor Margaret’s Sea Chest (Paperback)
Waheed Rabbini is a serious author and Doctor Margaret’s Sea Chest is a well-researched, serious novel crammed full of intrigue, suspense, odd situations, interesting geographical locations and more. There is a little bit of paranormal action, in that some of the main characters have dreams that are disturbingly real. The main action in the present takes place in Delhi, India We are led through Canada., the Crimea, Russia and most importantly the mid-19th century and the Sepoy rebellion The sea chest itself belongs to Doctor Margaret and contains her revealing journals that go in large part toward explaining the mystery. A good read and well-worth further information.

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Read, September 23, 2009
By Carole A. Sutton (Australia) – See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)
This review is from: Doctor Margaret’s Sea Chest (Paperback)
My husband, Bill, is a voracious reader. He is also an impatient reader and slaps away books that fail to engage him in a very short time. He’s not one for writing, so he asked me to tell you that he thoroughly enjoyed Doctor Margaret’s Sea Chest, and would like to know how soon he can see book 2 in this triology. In short, his message is to say, “It’s terrific!”
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars A SPLENDID STORY, July 4, 2009
By Author D. B. Pacini “Author & Youth Writing M… (California) – See all my reviews
This review is from: Doctor Margaret’s Sea Chest (Paperback)
Margaret, the main character, fascinates me from the beginning of this novel to the end. As a lovely child, she charmed me with her inquisitive mind. As a young woman, she impressed me with her determination to become a doctor when society adamantly blocked women from seeking careers in male dominated fields. This beautiful Margaret, this strong willed, capable, quick-witted, and resourceful woman, repeatedly triumphs over tremendous challenges to become an inspiring and admirable female role model in her time in history and in ours.

Waheed Rabbani successfully creates a persuasive tale filled with international plots and guarded secrets. This story connects readers with characters living in 1965, as well as with characters that lived more than a hundred years before. American doctor Wallidad Sharif is originally from Delhi. He has returned to his birth country on a one year medical contract. When the assignment nears its end, he is asked to do a fascinating task. An ancient and securely locked sea chest has been discovered in a hospital storage room. It is believed to be over 100 years old, the property of one of America’s first female doctors, Dr. Margaret Wallace. Will Dr. Sharif take possession of her sea chest, and try to locate her descendants in the United States and in Canada? Dr. Sharif and his wife Alexandra accept this intriguing undertaking and are soon thrown into a web of danger and conspiracy, being pursued by Russian agents, related to a priceless hidden royal crown, authentic war maps, and remarkable events of history not recorded in modern day history books.

I highly recommend this book. It is the first in a trilogy, and author Waheed Rabbani masterfully delivers. He is a new literary voice worthy of your attention. I anxiously await the second novel in this trilogy.

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
4.0 out of 5 stars Connecting the dots in history, June 29, 2009
By Shane K. Joseph (Canada) – See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)
Amazon Verified Purchase(What’s this?)
This review is from: Doctor Margaret’s Sea Chest (Paperback)
Waheed (Wally) Rabbani covers a very interesting period in history in this first of a trilogy of novels. The sweep spans the Underground Railway into Canada, the Crimean War, Dickensian London, the Indian Revolution of 1857 (quite overshadowed in recent times by the one in 1947 that led to that country’s independence), the Charge of the Light Brigade (I did not know that it was a spectator event, where a viewing gallery watched the carnage in the valley below), Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, and even Florence Nightingale. In addition, the modern part of the story, set in the 1960′s, pits those eternal cold war warriors, the CIA and the KGB, in a hunt for the lost diaries of Doctor Margaret. This book therefore, is a thoroughly engaging adventure, with liberal doses of love, betrayal,loss,suppression, emancipation, war, espionage and great historical detail of life in the 1800′s in Upper Canada, the neighboring states in America, India, England and Europe.

Doctor Margaret and the narrator Doctor Wally (sometimes I wonder if the author is referring to himself, and if there is more fact to this book than fiction) are well drawn characters with many parallels between them: stoic, bold, both Americans who married Canadians residing in Grimsby, Ontario which also seems to be the epicentre of this tale spanning the centuries, and both who have a connection with India. By appearing to him as a ghost, Margaret is luring Wally into uncovering and revealing the story of her life through the diaries that have been lying in her abandoned sea chest – a story that connects Wally’s ancestry and heritage to Margaret’s life in India.

The plot moves fast and over multiple locations, and the back story is revealed through a combination of dialogue, diary and investigation. I found the dialogue a bit too proper at times and wondered whether that was reflective of the colonial era, or the colonial writer?

Book #1 documents Margaret’s life in Grimsby, England and the Crimea, but doesn’t quite get us to her Indian period, yet also hints to a Russian period to follow. For that we will have to wait for books 2 and 3. Therefore, the end left me hanging, as Wally (the writer)did not complete the puzzle: Margaret’s life, and death, still remains a mystery.That said, I will eagerly await book #2…and #3.

Shane Joseph [...]

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent debut novel, March 18, 2009
By History and Women “Rosaria Babbore” (Alberta, Canada) – See all my reviews
This review is from: Doctor Margaret’s Sea Chest (Paperback)
Doctor Margaret’s Sea Chest

In a hospital in New Delhi, forgotten in a small storage room, lies an unclaimed sea chest, locked and untouched, for more than one hundred years old. The sea chest once belonged to a woman named Margaret, one of the first female American doctors. In 1965 another American doctor named Sharif is given the task of searching for Doctor Margaret’s descendents who are believed to be living in Grimsby, Ontario, Canada, and return the trunk to them. But things are never simple, and when the contents of the trunk are revealed, Sharif finds himself embroiled in mystery and intrigue that will propel him into the annals of history. From Russia to India, from Canada to America, from the Charge of the Light Brigade to the Underground railroad, this novel takes the reader on a most unforgettable journey into several sensitive times and places in history.

In this richly researched novel, Waheed Rabbani seamlessly weaves unrelated tidbits of history into one compelling novel. Through the words in Doctor Margaret’s diary, we get a glimpse into a time in America where slavery prevailed and to face inexplicable danger was the only escape. Rabbani knows how to write with detail, painting vivid pictures of items, places, and characters. For anyone interested in these eras of history, then this novel will certainly bring it to life with great vividness.

Dr. Margaret’s Sea Chest is the first book in a trilogy about India’s struggle for freedom – Azadi from the Raj.

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars ………a thoroughly enjoyable, easy read, March 15, 2009
By Allan Dempster “Al Dempster” (Grimsby, ON, Canada) – See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)
This review is from: Doctor Margaret’s Sea Chest (Paperback)
Doctor Margaret’s Sea Chest is a thoroughly enjoyable, easy read. Through flashbacks, this historical novel offers a fascinating portrait of 19th century life. The venues move from North America to India and on to the Ukraine. You gain insight into the Indian Rebellion and also, the Charge of the Light Brigade during the Crimean War. The book gains momentum as you follow Margaret’s diaries and by the end you are absolutley hooked….Can’t wait for the follow up book.

Dr M-FrontCover

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