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4.6 out of 5 stars19
4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 6 December 2012
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.
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on 25 November 2012
In Rudyard Kipling's mainly autobiographical short story, "Baa Baa, Back Sheep", a younger sister is favoured over her brother by the foster mother with whom the children are abandoned by their parents when they return to their home India after a visit back to England. Mary Hamer's fictional study of Kipling and his sister Alice ("Trix") makes it clear that both these talented children were damaged by their stay in the "House of Desolation". However, Kipling was able to channel his trauma into his work as a professional writer, whereas Trix, whose written works Rudyard appreciated and encouraged, achieved no such career but married a dull and dedicated non reader of fiction and succumbed to a series of mental and emotional breakdowns. Many biographical studies concentrate on the relationship between parents and children. Sensitive and well-informed studies comparing the lives of siblings are much rarer, and this book is an exemplar of the benefits such an approach. And, in choosing fiction over biography, Mary Hamer has allowed herself the imaginative freedom to succeed in her stated aim of "making emotional sense of these lives".
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on 29 December 2012
Mary Hamer has made an inspired choice here, to write of the life and relationships of Alice, Rudyard Kipling's sister, known to her family as 'Trix'.

Kipling's 'If . . . ' remains one of the nation's favourite poems and its author was in his day a National Treasure, being offered both a knighthood and the Poet Laureatship. He turned down both although he accepted the Nobel Prize in Literature. But what happened to his sister?

In 'Kipling and Trix' Mary Hamer gives us the answer. It is a riveting story which she presents as a novel so allowing for the creation of convincing dialogue and insights into the thought processes of both Kipling and his talented but troubled sibling.

We are shown that Trix shared all Kipling's formative childhood experiences, from idyllic times in India to trauma in Southsea where the children were placed as boarders with a totally unsuitable family. Like Kipling, she too wrote. Also she was witty and beautiful, attractive enough to win two offers of marriage from Lord Clanboye, son of the Viceroy. What reduced this talented and vibrant girl to a woman who literally tore out her own hair leaving 'blood trickling onto her forehead'?

If you read 'Kipling and Trix' you find out.
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on 27 December 2012
I absolutely loved this book, despite not being someone who has any particular interest in Kipling. What unfolded was a fascinating, moving and very well-written story of the lives of Kipling and his sister, Trix. Taking us through a diverse range of settings (including India, England, the USA, South Africa), each one beautifully evoked, it also takes us deeply into their emotional lives and the challenges they faced, and the shifting dynamic of their relationship faced as they got older and their lives went off in different directions . The writing moved me to tears on more than one occasion. It's also a great insight into the inner life of a writer, and a great period piece. Highly recommended.
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on 23 November 2012
Mary Hamer inhabits the skin of both Kipling and his sister Trix. She goes back to the terrors of their childhood and traces the ripples throughout their adult lives. In filmic scenes that take us all over the world - India, America, South Africa, and several locations in England - we watch how each sibling struggles to use their gifts as writers. The period detail is spot-on. The book races along. Fascinating to see inside the life of this once very public man who fell from favour - Hamer shows us why. And even more compelling to see how the brilliant Trix becomes trapped.
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on 16 July 2015
This is a fictional account of the lives of Rudyard Kipling and his sister Trix, focussing on their close relationship and their love for writing.
The narrative flows along comfortably in a prose that is pleasant and engaging to read. Occasionally the plot seems a little rushed, in that significant events are covered in a few spare lines and then events move on with a rather unseemly haste, while other episodes in the lives of the family are covered in almost forensic detail.
Having spent their earliest years in British colonial India, both Rudyard (known as Ruddy in his family) and Trix were sent to live with a martinet carer in Southsea in England – an experience that Kipling particularly hated and deeply affected his personality. Both siblings wrote from an early age and on their return to India, Kipling started writing and publishing his poems and stories, and Trix also had fiction published. Despite these literary successes, both Kipling siblings met severe challenges in their adult life – bereavement and illness for Rudyard and mental health issues for Trix, who became infatuated with the new fad of spirit writing.
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on 17 November 2014
This novel evokes a previous era when women were not expected to have the audacity to aspire to literary success. Luckily, the author has been immensely successful in creating this enjoyable read by attaining literary success herself. I felt that much of the dynamics of family life played out on the page were as fascinating now as they must have been in Kipling's time. How important a child's formative years are in creating the adult. The fragility of the principle characters was sensitively created against a colourful backdrop of many different countries.

I learned a great deal about Kipling and his sister, but the tone of the author was never preachy or over authoritative. I highly recommend "Kipling and Trix" to anyone who is fan of Kipling and also to those who are less keen: this is a book which is thought-provoking, moving and entertaining.

Mary Powles
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on 11 March 2013
The family history and character development of Kipling is facinating. The book is well written and very well researched. The author has visited the locations that were important in the lives of Kipling and his sister. The local detail which this provides brings the story to life.
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on 10 April 2013
It must be quite a challenge to write a novel about historical characters - particularly when they lived moderately recently and there is a wealth of documentation and information about them. The author not only has to get the history right and engage the reader's attention, but also has to confront preconceptions which the reader may already have about the characters and what they were like as people. Not every author can manage all this, but Mary Hamer's meticulate research and attention to detail brings period, places and people to life in an entirely credible way. Her depiction of the troubled characters of Kipling and his sister shows an intuitive understanding of psychology and a deep sympathy for mental suffering which is both persuasive and deeply affecting.
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on 21 November 2012
I could hardly put this down once I'd started - what a lovely story, well written and a joy to read, even a surprising tear at the end. It was easy to get caught up in the emotion of each individual's life journey. A lovely book, thank you.
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