2007: 10. Kim

He sat, in defiance of municipal orders, astride the gun Zam-Zammah on her brick platform opposite the old Ajaib-Gher - the Wonder House, as the natives call the Lahore Gher - the Wonder House, as the natives call the Lahore Museum.

Kim, Rudyard Kipling

Kim was a little bit of a slog. I made myself read a chapter at a time until I finally had it done. And in the end, I didn’t regret reading it, even if I only kept with it because it was good for me, like a brussel sprouts novel.* It tells (slowly tells) the story of Kimball O’Hara, who was left as an orphan in India by his Irish soldier father, and as is basically raised on the streets as an Indian native until his travels with a Tibetian lama lead him to meet up with his father’s old regiment. There he runs into Colonel Creighton, who realizes that Kim’s innate intelligence and knowledge of Indian ways would make him a perfect spy. So he pays for his education, and then introduces him to the “Great Game,” and we readers follow Kim on his first venture into the game.

I can see how this was the sort of gripping adventure tale that fed young Edwardian men, like Robinson Crusoe, or Treasure Island, but this modern reader found it too discursive and the spy part not all that interesting. Plus, what is up with all the “these” and “thous”? What I did enjoy, however, was the sense that Kipling gives of India – how complex and diverse it is, and how many different civilizations and people there – just the sweep of it all, Hindis and Moslems, rich and poor, high country and low country. Even for a book written in 1901, it gave me a sense of how interesting and rich and fascinating that part of the world is, and that part I appreciated.

Recommend for: People who like descriptive tales about India; people interested in the Great Game; Modern Library’s 100 best novels completists.

* Although I actually quite like brussel sprouts, especially roasted with balsamic vinegar.


Date/Place Completed: 01/23/07, D.C.

Categories: Fiction, Modern Library


© Carrie Dunsmore 2017