This is a wonderful book, and it isn't necessary to have any knowledge of Rudyard Kipling's literary output, or of his role in public life, in order to enjoy it (though I guess it will inspire some new readers to try him and old readers to take another look.) It works on many levels. It is the story of two fascinating people - three if one includes Kipling's American wife Carrie - which engages imaginatively with the inner lives of all its principal characters. It is about the lasting emotional effects of early experience, and about sibling relationships. It includes complex, convincing portraits of marriages (those of Rud, Trix, and their parents) and deals with the extraordinary ways in which every family, then as now, finds its own way of functioning, accommodating problems and disasters. The story itself is compellingly told, and though it's clearly underpinned by a prodigious amount of research, as well as a deep knowledge of all Kipling's writings, this never threatens to interrupt the narrative flow. The vivid account of the siblings' childhood and their early exile from their Indian home is almost unbearably sad, and the consequences of their upbringing are conveyed with subtlety and insight. The book also depicts the shocking inequality of a world before feminism in which the intelligence, imagination and literary ability of Rudyard's clever sister Trix were constantly disregarded, with disturbing results. As the story moves around the world from India to England, America and South Africa, external events (the Boer War, the First World War), along with personal tragedy for the Kiplings, lead to a moving conclusion. It's a long time since I have read a first novel with such pleasure, and I'm not surprised that it won a literary award. It would be an excellent choice for a book club: it's one of those books which lives on in one's mind after the final page is turned.