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Indian Summer: The Secret History of the End of an Empire [Paperback]

Alex Von Tunzelmann
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
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Book Description

29 Mar 2008
The stroke of midnight on 15 August 1947 liberated 400 million Indians from the British Empire. One of the defining moments of world history had been brought about by a tiny number of people, including Jawaharlal Nehru, the fiery prime minister-to-be; Gandhi, the mystical figure who enthralled a nation; and Louis and Edwina Mountbatten, the glamorous but unlikely couple who had been dispatched to get Britain out of India without delay. Within hours of the midnight chimes, however, the two new nations of India and Pakistan would descend into anarchy and terror. INDIAN SUMMER depicts the epic sweep of events that ripped apart the greatest empire the world has ever seen, and reveals the secrets of the most powerful players on the world stage: the Cold War conspiracies, the private deals, and the intense and clandestine love affair between the wife of the last viceroy and the first prime minister of free India. With wit, insight and a sharp eye for detail, Alex von Tunzelmann relates how a handful of people changed the world for ever.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Pocket Books (29 Mar 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416522255
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416522256
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 21,231 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"A brilliantly vivid page-turner that captures the backstage dramas raging on the eve of India's independence."--Tina Brown"Irreistible . . . A fascinating book that may well change how we look on the benighted world in which we live today."--"Los Angeles Times""[A] captivating group portrait, pulling forth the most telling details of each figure's inner life. . . . To have turned an era of such significance and continuing relevance into a page-turner, to both entertain and educate, is an an admirable accomplishment."--"San Francisco Chronicle" "A fascinating behind-the-scenes account of the breakup of British rule in India."--NPR's "Fresh Air""""""[Von Tunzelmann] keeps us riveted. . . . [She] has a fine knack for teasing out the play of personality in momentous events."--"Houston Chronicle""Von Tunzelman is witty, erudite, and thoughtful about her subject. . . . An oppinionated and sardonic writer, [she] is perfectly willing to take on both saints and heroes."--"The C

From the Inside Flap

The stroke of midnight on 15 August 1947 liberated 400 million people from the British Empire. With the loss of India, its greatest colony, a nation admitted it was no longer a superpower, and a king ceased to sign himself Rex Imperator.

It was one of the defining moments of world history, but it had been brought about by a tiny number of people. Among them were Jawaharlal Nehru, the fiery Indian prime minister with radical plans for a socialist revolution; Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the Muslim leader who would stop at nothing to establish the world's first modern Islamic state; Mohandas Gandhi, the mystical figure who enthralled a nation; and Louis and Edwina Mountbatten, the glamorous but unlikely couple who had been dispatched to get Britain out of India without delay. Within hours of the midnight chimes, the two new nations of India and Pakistan would descend into anarchy and terror. Nehru, Jinnah, Gandhi and the Mountbattens struggled with public and private turmoil while their dreams of freedom and democracy turned to chaos, bloodshed, genocide and war.

Indian Summer depicts the epic sweep of events that ripped apart the greatest empire the world has ever seen, and saw one million people killed and ten million dispossessed. It reveals the secrets of the most powerful players on the world stage: the Cold War conspiracies, the private deals, and the intense and clandestine love affair between the wife of the last viceroy and the first prime minister of free India.

Steeped in the private papers and reflections of the participants, this is an extraordinary story of complex passions and divided loyalties. With wit, insight and a sharp eye for detail, Alex von Tunzelmann relates how a handful of people changed the world for ever. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Viceregal Debut 31 July 2007
Format:Paperback
An extremely impressive first work from Alex von Tunzelmann. Clearly very thoroughly researched, the book manages to wear its scholarship lightly and is written with wit and a sophistication that is refreshing in works of this nature. The author views the tumultuous events of 1947, so relevant in this sixtieth anniversary year, through the prism of the personalities of, and the personal relationships between, the main players on the Anglo-Indian stage. The result is an immensely readable history and perceptive analysis of the partition of India and the role played in its genesis and execution by the Mountbattens, Nehru, Jinnah and Ghandi (and others). There are also some fascinating photographs - not least the wonderful cover photo.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Setting of the British Raj 4 Aug 2009
Format:Paperback
It is appropriate that I finished reading this book at the stroke of midnight 14 August 2007. This first book by the author is a wonderful retelling of the events and personalities leading to the independence of India and the Partition to India and Pakistan. The book's strength is the retelling of the close relationship between Jawaharlal Nehru and Edwina Mountbatten. Edwina was born to immense wealth. Her maternal grandfather left her assets of 3 million pounds ( equivalent to 100 million pounds today ). She inherited even more from her father's side.

Edwina forged a close relationship with Nehru while serving as Vicereine of India. She died in bed in Sabah in 1960 a batch of letters by her bedside and a few letters strewn across her bed- she must have been reading them when she died. All the letters were from Nehru. Edwina was buried at sea from HMS Wakeful, escorted by an Indian frigate the Trishul, sent by Nehru to cast a wreath of marigolds into the waves after Edwina's coffin. Nehru died 4 years later in 1964. ( see pages 60, 351& 352 )

According to Judith Brown's Nehru- A Political Life 2003 at page 366 footnote 46, the best life of Edwina is Janet Morgan's Edwina Mountbatten- A Life of Her Own. 1991
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great book about the end of British India 6 May 2008
Format:Paperback
In 2007 a number of books came out about British India, Partition and the end of the Raj. I find this part of history fascinating but couldnt decide when on a limited budget what to read. I picked Indian Summer and was so pleased that i did.

Indian Summer is a great history book, very readable and accessible. it covers all the main historical figures and characters with lots of information and ancedotes about them all.

Nothing new another reviewer said? Personally I did not realise that Lady Mountbatten and Nehru where rumoured to be having an affair (which influenced a lot of decisions made then), that Gandhi's importance had really waned by 1947 and he was deeply unpopular with sections of the Congress party and most untouchables and that he had some unusual ways of testing himself with young women, that Jinnah seemed to regret the foundation of Pakistan and that Bangladesh/East Pakistan had been designed not to work and therefore be rejected by the Muslim League which might explain some of the problems it faces today. I found this book packed with new information and insights. And I teach History!

A truly fascintating read, I would recommend this book to anyone interested in Indian history.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
By Kali
Format:Paperback
I attended a book signing event on the 13th November 2007 in Brighton were the author talked about the complexities of writing such an epic in which she looked at the dynamics that bought about the fall of an Empire and the most unlikely love story ever not to be reported by the press, that of Edwina Mountbatten and Nehru, India's first Prime Minister.

The book is surprisingly good, I have to confess I didn't have high hopes when I purchased it but the subject is of such interest to me I was willing to take a chance and buy it and I am glad I did.

Ms Von Tunzleman has a written a book that has obviously been researched extensively, both here in the UK and also in India and her candid no nonsense approach to all the subjects she touches, such as Hindu and Muslim hostilities, Mahatma Gandhi's strange predilections that made people both love and hate him, to the fate of the dispossessed, the love story between Nehru and Edwina makes it very interesting to read to the point that you can't put it down.

For a historian Ms Von Tunzleman has made this book very accessible to the ordinary reader, she goes into great detail but she is never boring as she explains how India became a British Empire and how when it finally crumbled into dust, it did so, so swiftly that no one, least of all the British were prepared for the backlash that was to follow.

A superb book with many photos of an era that depicts two nations in transition, India the Jewel in the Crown striking out on its own and Great Britain, suddenly realising that its days as the greatest Empire in the world have come to an end, not so much a tragedy as the inevitability of change in a world flinging of the chains of colonial paternalism.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and well worth a read 23 Mar 2011
Format:Paperback
Having never covered the British Empire at school and having travelled to India and picked up a good bit of history on the way, wanted to read an account of how India gained independence and also understand more about partition. Well researched, balanced, very readable and great for an overview of the events surrounding independence and partition. Great overview of the multitude of characters involved as well and how these had a significant effect on the final result (e.g. Jinnah and the creation of Pakistan). Only one small niggle - many superscript numbers (is there another name for these?) (all per chapter at back of book) - the majority of these are references but there are some key additional facts among these as well. Frustrating that these couldn't be separated out or the additional facts included in each chapter as footnotes - meant I read the book with a finger constantly at the back so I could flick between the chapter and the references. However, excellent book - great first book from this author - would definitely read another of hers.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Excellent read
Published 18 days ago by SM
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best books I've read on India
One of the best books I've read on India. I just couldn't put it down as it gripped me from beginning to end.
Published 1 month ago by Juno1972
5.0 out of 5 stars stunning and unbiased
Great account of indian history with facts and unbiased views. The language is strong and book keeps reader engaged with its cleaver writing style.
Published 1 month ago by abhishek
4.0 out of 5 stars Good book
A really good account ( not really " light holiday reading"! - stick to "Jewel in the Crown" type novels for that! Read more
Published 4 months ago by Paul Bramham
4.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic book on partition and and all the central key players who...
I was a bit sceptical when I bought this book, primarly because I thought it would be just another Pro-British account of the whole affiar but I couldn't have been more wrong. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Jasvinder Badh
4.0 out of 5 stars Well written account of the move to independence
A good evaluation of the main characters and events leading up to independence, though the author was understandably frustrated by lack of access to some papers.
Published 5 months ago by Mr J H C Boodle
5.0 out of 5 stars A clear insight into the independence of India
Since visiting India in the 1970s I've had a passionate interest in the country and its history and this is a very well written account which also gives insights into the... Read more
Published 6 months ago by June Viner
5.0 out of 5 stars A well documented book.
This is such a well documented book absolutely full of back-up notes to authenticate the comments made in the book that present quite an insight into the lives of all participates! Read more
Published 6 months ago by David G. Brown
5.0 out of 5 stars Indian Summer
An excellent read, Fascinating history of a momentous episode in world history. Brilliantly recorded by this new author. Buy it !!
Published 7 months ago by Mrs Valerie A Jones
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read about a fascinating subject
I really enjoyed this book. My interest in the events leading to the independence of India were piqued during a holiday when we visited the Viceregal House in Shimla in the... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Andy P
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