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August 28, 1994|CHARLES SOLOMON

THE HOLDER OF THE WORLD by Bharati Mukherjee (Fawcett/Columbine: $12; 286 pp.). In her latest novel, Mukherjee continues the exploration of the clash between Oriental and Occidental civilizations she began in "Jasmine." The search for a fabulous diamond that belonged to the Emperor Aurangzeb leads "asset-hunter" Beigh Masters to chronicle the life of Hannah Easton. Born in colonial America, Hannah married a dashing British adventurer, but found herself when she became the mistress of a Hindu rajah. The shifts in Hannah's nature are reflected in the triumphs and scandals that rock the Coromandel coast of India in the late 17th Century, when European traders, entrepreneurs and pirates matched wits with their Asian counterparts for control of the lucrative textile trade. Although Mukherjee handles the shifts in time and place skillfully, the flinty Hannah is a less beguiling heroine than the subtle Jasmine.

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