This engrossing and moving novel, with its diversity of memorable characters, offers many insights into political, religious and social tensions.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
A blend of coming-of-age story, spy novel and spiritual quest, Kim is set in colonial India against the backdrop of games of espionage between competing European powers. Kim, a white orphan boy, befriends an elderly Buddhist holy man, and the two undertake an extraordinary journey. Rudyard Kipling spent several years in India during the 1880s, and he offers vivid, affectionate descriptions of the country alongside fascinating insights into Buddhist philosophy. We were captivated by the book’s larger-than-life characters (especially Kim, an ingenious and charming rogue) and inspired by Kipling’s portrait of an exceptional intergenerational friendship.
Kipling's inspirational poem the one that begins, "If you can keep your head when all about you/ Are losing theirs" describes how to preserve one's honor by the principled avoidance of political and moral pitfalls. Italian artist Manna imagines the "you" of the poem as a boy journeying through a series of watercolor landscapes: fields under billowing clouds, misty nights, craggy mountaintops. To accompany the poem's first line, Manna paints the boy watching from a great green meadow as storm clouds approach; he stands and watches with a cool head, rather than running in fear. For "If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew/ To serve your turn long after they are gone," Manna shows the boy climbing a rocky pitch, the peaks of other mountains poking through the clouds below. Flying kites represent temptation, and dull-eyed marionettes represent allies who can't be trusted ("If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken/ Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools"). Though young readers may not fathom the poem's complexities, the grandeur of Manna's scenes conveys the loftiness of Kipling's sentiments. Ages 6 8.
This is the enthralling story of a white boy growing up on the streets in India around the late 1880s. Having been orphaned at the age of 3 he has only vague memories of his white British culture and can easily pass as a Hindu or Muslim native to India. Out of curiousity he attaches himself to a wandering Tibetan lama and the two proceed together on their separate quests. Eventually his being a "sahib" catches up with him but although his birth race claims him he never fully loses his Hindu side and this is put to good use in the later chapters as the story unfolds. The story is rich in local colour and detail and clearly brings out the many cross-cultural delights and the tensions of India at that time. It is written with loving sympathy for that beautiful, amazing and to the Western mind, chaotic country and is remarkable for having been written so sensitively by a white man, much of whose own experience of growing up is evidently reflected here. A joy to read, a real insight into its time.
This is the 4th time I have read Kim and still I find it an excellent book.