So, unless someone sneaks in a post before this, this will be the 100th review on Book Weyr; unusual for a guest author to mark this milestone, but I will attempt to do the blog justice.
Kim is, without a doubt, one of my favourite books, and one I go back to reading time and time again. The text is deeply rooted in its setting, and offers the reader a slow, gloriously meandering trek through colonial India. The depth of this novel is such that I discover a new element each time I read it, whether it be a new facet of a character or a description of a locale. Like many other works it is multi-layered, however, it is unusual in that it is not always necessary to read deeply into the text to enjoy it. Whether in the mood for a story about a boy growing up and the relationships he forms, a thrilling spy intrigue, or a historical travelogue, Kipling offers a variety of stories to appreciate. It is the latter which perhaps best conveys the overall feel of the book, and the affection that Kipling so obviously holds for the India he was born in.
Kim is a young lad, the orphan of an Irish soldier in imperial India growing up in the earthy city of Lahore. Though of European descent, Kim’s thoughts, motivations, and language are rooted in the land he has grown up in. The arrival of a Tibetan lama during the middle of a simple game at the start of the novel is the trigger that pushes Kim out into the raucous, dangerous, and lusciously alive world that is India; perhaps best described one of the more beautiful passages in the text where Kim and the lama travel on the Grand Trunk Road, the “broad, smiling river of life” where one can almost see “all India spread out to left and right.” The adventures continue, and many other characters introduce themselves and the archetypes they represent; the wily horse trader, the clever babu, the soldier, the grandmother, the spymaster. The backdrop of the second half of the novel are the plots and intrigues involving the ‘Great Game’- the thrusts and cuts of the Anglo-Russian rivalry in Central Asia during the period.
It is against this backdrop that the tension between the spiritual and physical worlds plays out – as represented by the lama and Kim. While the lama discourses on the illusions of the Great Wheel and the need to free oneself from its bonds, Kim exults in those bonds, in experiencing the world all around him. The tension builds through the piece, and yet never comes to a head, with the spiritual and physical coming to a peaceful truce by the end. Indeed, just before the end of the text, there is a reaffirmation of the physical world by Kim, wherein he realizes that “Roads were meant to be walked upon, houses to be lived in, cattle to be driven, fields to be tilled, and men and women to be talked to. They were all real and true – solidly planted upon the feet – perfectly comprehensible – clay of his clay, neither more or less.”
While I’ve read and enjoy many of Kipling’s other works, it is Kim that I come back to over and over. There is a feeling of joy and unbridled freedom that infuses the first part of the novel that is slowly tempered with the responsibilities and duties that Kim takes on. Yet, the tone never becomes bogged down with these, and the pacing remains fast, even when conflicts shift from external to internal. I highly recommend this book to anyone who has not yet read it; those who already have, I have no need to suggest they re-read it, since I know they will.
Precarious acts of balance and climbing notwithstanding, Dhruv’s passion for reading has continued, though it now encompasses a variety of genres beyond Gimlet and Mandrake. Having recently acquired a Kindle, he is proceeding to re-read many treasured classics, along with “boring” non-fiction titles on lean management and the occasional volume of poetry. When not reading, he can be found working as a process consultant in London, UK, playing golf (badly), or playing Dance Dance Revolution (also badly, but it's amusing for onlookers).
Latest posts by Dhruv Devasher (see all)
- Darkness Outside the Night (Xie Peng & Duncan Jepson) - May 29, 2013
- Kim (Rudyard Kipling) - January 22, 2012