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Indira: The Life of Indira Nehru Gandhi Paperback – 4 Oct 2010

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Product details

  • Paperback: 592 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; New Ed edition (4 Oct. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0006387152
  • ISBN-13: 978-0006387152
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 3.9 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 504,733 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

With her latest biography Indira, Katherine Frank has chosen to grapple with the original Iron Lady of world politics. The result is a wonderfully convincing and balanced account of the life of Indira Gandhi, the mountain girl of Kashmir who rose to succeed her father, Jawaharlal Nehru, as prime minister of the world's largest democracy. A difficult childhood--her mother died early of tuberculosis and her father was frequently incarcerated by the British--saw her a frail, introverted child. Born in the same month as the Russian Revolution, she felt her life was linked to the trajectory of history, yet it took until her mid-40s, after her father had reached his dotage, for political conviction to grip her life. First sworn in as Prime Minister in 1966, she quickly achieved a revered, mythic status as the mother of the nation. In all, she held the post four times, three consecutively, the last occasion coming in 1980 at the age of 63, four years before she was gunned down by her Sikh bodyguard. The Nehrus believed passionately in a secular state and Indian "oneness": it made Gandhi's factionalist assassination grimly ironic.

This is a book of death and its actions. In addition to Gandhi's parents and husband, her son Sanjay, a disreputable rascal on whom she doted damagingly, was to die in a plane crash, and his brother Rajiv was assassinated in 1991. Even the author lost her husband during the six years it took to research and write the book. A tenacious demagogue rather than an ideologue, Indira personalised Indian politics, her sway coming from the natural authority of a matriarch, yet she was demonised by Salman Rushdie in Midnight's Children for her Emergency which suspended democratic practice in India. Frank, though, in appraising her subject, asserts that she was typically "sincere and deluded", and while being guilty of hubris, was no megalomaniac. Arguably each generation of Nehrus lost something of the family's intellectual rigour, and the death of Rajiv was seen by many as the close of the dynasty. However, Priyanka Gandhi Varda, Indira's granddaughter, is said to harbour political ambition, so perhaps there will be further chapters to write. If so, they will prove addenda to this first-class biography, which deserves to be read for many years. --David Vincent --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


‘A stunning biography. Indira Gandhi was voted Woman of the Millennium, and yet her story is of a woman pushed into the public eye by men, corrupted by power and assassinated by those she should have trusted best – her own bodyguards.’ Jenni Murray, Sunday Times

‘Well researched, convincing and impressively fair to its subject.’ Philip Ziegler, Daily Telegraph

‘A fascinating account of how an unpromising, if privileged, girl came to lead the world's largest democracy. Anyone who wants to get to the heart of this extraordinary woman (and the extraordinary country which she mothered, cajoled and eventually came to embody), could not do better than read this accomplished book.’ Kathryn Hughes, Mail on Sunday

‘Moving and revealing.’ Victoria Schofield, Financial Times

‘An important study…compelling and humanly sympathetic.’ Sunil Khilnani, Sunday Telegraph

‘An excellent biography.’ Geoffrey Moorhouse, Guardian

‘A fascinating, rigorous highly readable study.’ Caroline Macdonald, Scotsman

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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 16 Aug. 2002
Format: Paperback
Katherine Frank's book is clearly well researched and has no obvious bias for or against the subject.
Readers expecting to learn more about Indira Gandhi will not be disappointed as the book begins with the political development of her grandfather, leading on to Nehru's political career as seen through the eyes of Indira as a child, through to Nehru's death.
The book is also an excellent guide to modern Indian history without sensationaling well known events and not seeking to understand or judge episodes in history. It also gives some interesting information about members of the Gandhi family (eg Sanjay Gandhi working at Rolls Royce in Crewe).
I would recommend this book for the historical information alone but the fact that the historical events are related through the eyes of Indira Gandhi make it a far more interesting read than a history textbook.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By LEO DE CLERCQ on 15 May 2001
Format: Hardcover
Some people are convinced that the longer the review, the better the book. This review is going to be one of the shortest i have ever written. Katherine Frank explains at length how Indira became the Indira the world came to know, without going into useless and endless details. When at last i put the book down, it was as if i had lost a very close aquaintance. And i longed for Katherine Frank to continue talking about Indira through her son's life. Because Indira's influence did not end with her being assassinated.Even if you are not interested in Indian politics and history, if you like to read about other people, this book just sucks you in. Warning: do not buy this book unless you are willing to sacrifice hours on end. You are not going to be able to put it down easily. It is as compelling as the the person it describes!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By HFM on 9 Jun. 2001
Format: Hardcover
This is an amazingly compulsive account of the life of Indira Gandhi. A controversial woman with many faults, this book deals sympathetically with its subject. I feel I now understand why she made the decisions she did whilst often not agreeing with them. This wonderful book should be read by anyone interested in the history of the Indian subcontinent. Outstanding
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By on 16 April 2001
Format: Hardcover
This is a well written, highly controversial book, which exposes Indira Gandhi life, from the time she used to shadow her Father (Nehru) playing behind the scenes politics holding great unofficial power, to her scandolous political life as a saviour and mother of India to a corrupt prime minister who crippled the country. This book shows her in many lights, not all of them Good. Katherine Frank, just like her name suggests is very Frank.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By M. Craig Willy on 21 Jun. 2008
Format: Paperback
Indira Ghandi was the prime minister of India from the 1960s and 1980s. She is the daughter of India's first PM, Nehru, and was raised in part by Mahatma Gandhi. Confusingly, however, she married a completely unrelated Feroze Gandhi who granted her that famous last name. This is a monster of a book at over 500 pages, copiously annotated and extremely detailed.

The most striking thing I found reading the book was how weak and non-existent Indira seems in her youth and early adulthood. She is unendingly ill with pulmonary diseases, painfully thin, does poorly at school, and floats around Europe and India with her family (she attended the world's first international school, l'Ecole Internationale, in Switzerland for League of Nations brats). She has no normal childhood or youth as the whole Nehru family is deeply involved in the Indian independence movement. They all periodically have to face jail time (a veritable rite-of-passage) for their activities, which the British government calls seditious.

She marries an ambitious, hot-headed and energetic Feroze Gandhi in 1942 despite the misgivings of her father Nehru. Though they were sincerely in love and they produced two sons, the marriage proved a miserable one. Indira was more committed to her father's political work (who becomes PM of independent India) than her husband (who quickly begins having a number of a more-or-less open affairs). I was struck by how Indira lives for others, she has no independent personality, not until in 1959, at age *fourty-two*, she deems that she has repaid her debt to her family and must live her own life. Tragically good timing, because both her husband Feroze and her father Nehru would die within the next few years.
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