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Kipling Sahib: India and the Making of Rudyard Kipling 1865-1900 [Paperback]

Charles Allen
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
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Book Description

4 Sep 2008

Rudyard Kipling was born in Bombay in 1865 and spent his early years there, before being sent, aged six, to England, a desperately unhappy experience. Charles Allen's great-grandfather brought the sixteen-year-old Kipling out to Lahore to work on The Civil and Military Gazette with the words 'Kipling will do', and thus set young Rudyard on his literary course. And so it was that at the start of the cold weather of 1882 he stepped ashore at Bombay on 18 October 1882 - 'a prince entering his kingdom'. He stayed for seven years during which he wrote the work that established him as a popular and critical, sometimes controversial, success.

Charles Allen has written a brilliant account of those years - of an Indian childhood and coming of age, of abandonment in England, of family and Empire. He traces the Indian experiences of Kipling's parents, Lockwood and Alice and reveals what kind of culture the young writer was born into and then returned to when still a teenager. It is a work of fantastic sympathy for a man - though not blind to Kipling's failings - and the country he loved.

Frequently Bought Together

Kipling Sahib: India and the Making of Rudyard Kipling 1865-1900 + Plain Tales From The Raj: Images of British India in the 20th Century: Images of British India in the Twentieth Century + Raj: The Making and Unmaking of British India
Price For All Three: 30.97

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Product details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Abacus (4 Sep 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0349116857
  • ISBN-13: 978-0349116853
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 18,521 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Those who relish Allen's India books will not be disappointed . . . Rich in instruction for the current administration in, say, Basra - and better still, it's vintage Charles Allen (John Keay, LITERARY REVIEW)

Allen tells his complex story with concision, insight and wide-ranging vision (SUNDAY TIMES)

Compelling (TIMES)

A fascinating new book (SPECTATOR)

Book Description

A long overdue reassessment of Kipling in India by a leading historian of the subcontinent, author of PLAIN TALES FROM THE RAJ and SOLDIER SAHIBS

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
Charles Allen has produced a superb biography covering the first thirty-five years of Kipling's life. The book concentrates on Kipling's relationship with India, which Allen convincingly argues sustained most of his best work.

Today Kipling can appear an austere figure, a handle-bar moustached Imperialist advocate, with ideas on race beyond the pale of polite society. But Allen shows the young Kipling ("Ruddy") to be so much more interesting and sympathetic than the stereotype suggests.

Allen is excellent on Ruddy's early life in Bombay, his unloved years in Southsea away from his parents, his return to India and work there as a journalist, his development as a writer and return to England to become a literary superstar.

Ruddy trod new ground among writers: for example, he was the first to give a voice to the men rather than the officers in the British army. In India he talked to everyone: from Vieroys to the most downtrodden and his empathy for misfits, outsiders and slackers gave his fiction its wondrous colour and detail.

For me the most surprising elements of Kipling's life include his nocturnal explorings of native India, his visits to Lahore courtesans, his experiences with opium and his depressions. The older Kipling did much to obscure Ruddy's antics from future generations. But Allen is superb at uncovering Ruddy's secrets and they make him so much more of a sympathetic and modern man than I had previously believed.

I have not read any of Kipling's prose since my teenage years when I struggled through the Second Jungle Book. But this book has re-awakened my interest and I shall shortly be reading Kim, which Allen considers Kipling's masterpiece.

Read this book if you are interested in learning more about what made Kipling tick, whether you have got into his works yet or not. Also read this book if you are interested in the Raj. Allen makes this far-away world come alive.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must-read for all Kipling lovers. 22 Aug 2010
By Mrs. H. V. Minor VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is a must-read for all Kipling lovers and also for those who aren't quite sure whether or not they should be approving of him. Kipling is a huge favourite of mine. Like me, he was born in Bombay, India. Like me, he was christened in St Thomas' Cathedral, Bombay. Like me, he loved India. I still love India. He was happiest in the years he spent in India, especially in Bombay. He made it his business to get to know local people, so those who accuse him of jingoistic prejudice couldn't be more wrong. Brought back to England by his parents when he and his sister were only children, his life in this country - in the hands of two people who today would be imprisoned for child abuse - was a misery he only just survived. This book has added volumes to my affection for this writer whose books - expecially The Jungle Book - I used to take on holiday with me, as a child, to Matheran, in the Western Ghats. To me, the Bandar Log (monkey people) were real - the Kala Mous (blackfaced langurs) used to come whooping through our garden to steal the mangoes and at night we heard the villagers in the valleys around our bungalow beating drums to scare off Bagheera who roamed the jungle at night looking for unwary dogs to snatch. We had to watch out for Kaa who would lie across our pathway to bask in the sun and Rikki Tikki Tavi, the mongoose, well he is every bit the hero now that he was then and I have read his story to Year 6 youngsters who have been spellbound by it. Please read this wonderful book and have your understanding of "Ruddy" enriched as mine has been. And then, visit Bateman's in Burwash, East Sussex, where he lived with his wife, Carrie, and their family.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Kipling Sahib: a great read 28 May 2012
By Hugh
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Kipling Sahib, a book by Charles Allen is a great read.

As one who lived in British India over 60 years ago, I found this book to be absolutely fascinating and would recommend it to anyone with an interest in India.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Blows away some Kipling stereotypes 21 May 2011
Loved this book. First 80 pages a bit plodding then, as Kipling really starts to explore both native and British India, you do too. His nighttime prowls on the streets of Lahore and cutting parodies of British hill station society are wonderful.

A fascinating character, unfashionable for partly justifiable reasons - yes, he was a reactionary; you can't revise that away - but also a complicated, interesting man who had real affinity for aspects of Indian culture.

Can't wait to start reading the early stories...
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