Most helpful critical review
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Are authors nowadays paid by the page?
on 3 February 2011
This book is characterized by being stuffed with material that goes beyond its scope.
Right at the beginning there are multiple pages describing a trekking trip to Nepal by the author and others. I ended up flipping the pages until it was over, something I never do while reading a book. If I wanted to read a travel book I would have bought one. Curiously the trip description wasn't even written by the author, it was a transcript of a travel diary by one of his travel mates.
That's one of the main characteristics of this book: ipsis verbis testimonies of people somehow involved with the Ghurkhas are transcribed in pages on end. Towards the middle, an entire chapter is filled with the statement of a Ghurkha Officer about his experiences of the Burma campaign. It tells you a lot about the hardships suffered by soldiers on that theatre, but by all soldiers, not just Ghurkhas, failing in my opinion to convey the important role they had in that campaign. I read in a book about the battle for Kohima and Imphal that in most infantry brigades one out of three battalions was of Ghurkhas. This book doesn't give an impression of such contribution.
Towards the end a lot is written about the problems of retired and demobilized Ghurkhas returning to Nepal (including, again, a lengthy testimony from an ex-soldier about his personal hardships, as well as a totally useless description of the murder of the Nepali Royal Family). I think that subject is important in a history of Ghurkhas, but the great amount of the book dedicated to it, in a protracted manner (some times the same arguments are repeated in other words), is totally out of proportion.
I give three stars because mixed up in the almost 400 pages (pb edition) you'll indeed find a history of the Ghurkhas. But it fails because the author was so preoccupied with modern Nepal and the plight of ex-Ghurkhas that he dropped its history to a background level.