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India: A Portrait Paperback – 26 Jan 2012

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Product details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (26 Jan. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141041579
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141041575
  • Product Dimensions: 13.3 x 2.8 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 228,389 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

French combines his lifelong passion, India, with his scholarly interest ... a fascinating anaylsis, revealing a deeper truth. (Salil Tripathi The Independent)

It is a funny, witty book; also dense, gripping, thrilling. What blazes through from each page is French's absolute and uncondescending engagement with India (Neel Mukherjee The Times)

Wide-ranging, clear-sighted, warm-hearted and immensely readable (Nirpal Dhaliwal Evening Standard)

French is a fine reporter, with an appealing fascination for all things Indian ... an accomplished portrait of momentous times in a remarkable country (Economist)

Admirable ... There are many Indias, and Patrick French sets out, with enthusiasm and empathy, to encounter as many as he can find (David Gilmour Spectator)

Mr. French compresses 63 years of post-independence history into 450-odd pages fizzing with wit, insight and infectious curiosity ... a riveting read, and one suspects that Mr. French could not pen a boring passage if he tried. (Sadanand Dhume Wall Street Journal)

About the Author

Patrick French is the author of Younghusband, Liberty or Death, Tibet, Tibet and The World Is What It Is. His books have won the Somerset Maugham Award, the Royal Society of Literature W.H. Heinemann Prize, the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Hawthornden Prize.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By markr TOP 500 REVIEWER on 22 Feb. 2012
Format: Paperback
This is a splendid book which covers the great sweep of Indian life and culture, illuminated with numerous individual anecdotes representing people from all levels of Indian society. The anecdotes are fascinating, covering people who have found great success in the economic liberalisation of the last 15 years, as well as those who have continued to live a life of struggle and poverty.

Patrick French draws out the numerous contrasts which make such an impression on visitors to India; a meritocratic culture which is still infused with caste and status, a deliberately secular society in which religion is intertwined with daily life, a land of great wealth ( 4 of 8 richest people in the world are Indian) which has the largest population of illiterate people in the world.

Having recently visited India, I found that this book brought back memories of the colours, the smells, and the vibrancy which I had found to be almost overwhelming, and helped to explain many of the features of Indian life which I had found so fascinating and confusing.

Divided into three sections; Nation, Wealth and Society, this book is highly recommended for those who would like to know more about the country of 1.2 billion people, which has just overtaken Germany as the world's fourth largest economy. If you are going to visit do read this. If you are not yet planning to visit, this book will make you want to...

Highly recommended
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Many Beans VINE VOICE on 14 May 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
After the first section (which deals with history) I found this very readable. It's a great sprawl of a book. Whilst it's clearly impossible to capture India in a few hundred pages, this is not a bad go at it.

The author has travelled widely and met all sorts of people on his journeys. He paints a vivid picture of the people and places he's encountered, and brings these to life wonderfully.

The book also provides a potted history of India, and an compelling and convincing outline of the politics and economics of the country. These parts are brought to life through meetings and conversations with Indian politicians and businessmen, and have a real ring of truth about them.

As someone without much previous knowledge about the country, I felt I learnt a good deal through this. It's well written, and makes you feel you learning something without having to struggle to do so. A well crafted and readable book: recommended.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By F Henwood TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 18 Feb. 2012
Format: Paperback
Recently there has been a spate of books on the rise of China but curiously very little for the general reader on the equally remarkable rise of India. French has offered just such a book, a snapshot of an India in transition. The book is divided into three parts. The first section traces the development of India's representative parliamentary democracy, which, against the odds, works reasonably well. The second part deals with the transformation of India's economy from stagnant statism to an open, dynamic trade orientated economy and the final section covers, among other things, the persistence of ancient religion in the teeth of an emerging consumer society, the caste system and other cultural quirks of Indian life.

Patrick French is an excellent writer and his latest offering does not disappoint. He offers an account of his travels around the country, a snapshot of contemporary India, structured through a series of vignettes, interviews with Indians from all walks of life. It's easy to sneer at this approach and complain that this is not a comprehensive academic text on Indian society and economy but that is to criticise him for a book he did not set out to write. Oral testimony recorded in a book is an entirely respectable genre of writing - think of the late Studs Turkel. The merit of French's approach is allow Indians themselves to tell things as they see it, from a variety of perspectives, and not how French sees it. There are many realities experienced in India and this book captures a sample. It certainly gives the armchair traveler a flavour of a country. Through these witnesses, he succeeds in portraying a country of phenomenal potential and dynamism, coexisting alongside great squalor and injustice, a warts-and-all portrait.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE on 24 April 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Patrick French has achieved a rare thing; a book that is epic and intimate, historic and contemporary.

My first conscious contact with India was as a student, when I encountered middleclass UK students who had been there for a `gap year' and wealthy Indians in the UK studying for Masters degrees. The former banged on about `finding themselves' while displaying a shallow empathy with the poverty they had photographed while the latter showed a snobbery, arrogance and casual disregard for working people that did little to recommend themselves or their country. However, when I went to the south of India myself a few years ago, I couldn't help but develop a fondness and admiration for the place.

Patrick French's knowledge and experience of India dwarfs my own, but at the same time the perspective that comes across in this book is familiar. Split into three sections covering nation, wealth and society, French is unflinching in his long, hard look at the corruption of India's political class, the failure of the post-independence economy and inequities of the current boom, or how the emerging middleclass sees it as only right and natural that they should have a plethora of servants living under the stairs to take care of every vaguely unpleasant or mundane task, from keeping the apartment clean to peeling fruit; moral grandstanding by the author is neither present nor necessary as the agreed facts speak for themselves.

However, on the other hand, French also looks at the positive side to India - its stability, democracy and plurality, built on an enduring civic patriotism that is lacking in the West with the exception of the United States.
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