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on 6 May 2008
In 2007 a number of books came out about British India, Partition and the end of the Raj. I find this part of history fascinating but couldnt decide when on a limited budget what to read. I picked Indian Summer and was so pleased that i did.

Indian Summer is a great history book, very readable and accessible. it covers all the main historical figures and characters with lots of information and ancedotes about them all.

Nothing new another reviewer said? Personally I did not realise that Lady Mountbatten and Nehru where rumoured to be having an affair (which influenced a lot of decisions made then), that Gandhi's importance had really waned by 1947 and he was deeply unpopular with sections of the Congress party and most untouchables and that he had some unusual ways of testing himself with young women, that Jinnah seemed to regret the foundation of Pakistan and that Bangladesh/East Pakistan had been designed not to work and therefore be rejected by the Muslim League which might explain some of the problems it faces today. I found this book packed with new information and insights. And I teach History!

A truly fascintating read, I would recommend this book to anyone interested in Indian history.
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on 4 August 2009
It is appropriate that I finished reading this book at the stroke of midnight 14 August 2007. This first book by the author is a wonderful retelling of the events and personalities leading to the independence of India and the Partition to India and Pakistan. The book's strength is the retelling of the close relationship between Jawaharlal Nehru and Edwina Mountbatten. Edwina was born to immense wealth. Her maternal grandfather left her assets of 3 million pounds ( equivalent to 100 million pounds today ). She inherited even more from her father's side.

Edwina forged a close relationship with Nehru while serving as Vicereine of India. She died in bed in Sabah in 1960 a batch of letters by her bedside and a few letters strewn across her bed- she must have been reading them when she died. All the letters were from Nehru. Edwina was buried at sea from HMS Wakeful, escorted by an Indian frigate the Trishul, sent by Nehru to cast a wreath of marigolds into the waves after Edwina's coffin. Nehru died 4 years later in 1964. ( see pages 60, 351& 352 )

According to Judith Brown's Nehru- A Political Life © 2003 at page 366 footnote 46, the best life of Edwina is Janet Morgan's Edwina Mountbatten- A Life of Her Own. © 1991
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on 14 November 2007
I attended a book signing event on the 13th November 2007 in Brighton were the author talked about the complexities of writing such an epic in which she looked at the dynamics that bought about the fall of an Empire and the most unlikely love story ever not to be reported by the press, that of Edwina Mountbatten and Nehru, India's first Prime Minister.

The book is surprisingly good, I have to confess I didn't have high hopes when I purchased it but the subject is of such interest to me I was willing to take a chance and buy it and I am glad I did.

Ms Von Tunzleman has a written a book that has obviously been researched extensively, both here in the UK and also in India and her candid no nonsense approach to all the subjects she touches, such as Hindu and Muslim hostilities, Mahatma Gandhi's strange predilections that made people both love and hate him, to the fate of the dispossessed, the love story between Nehru and Edwina makes it very interesting to read to the point that you can't put it down.

For a historian Ms Von Tunzleman has made this book very accessible to the ordinary reader, she goes into great detail but she is never boring as she explains how India became a British Empire and how when it finally crumbled into dust, it did so, so swiftly that no one, least of all the British were prepared for the backlash that was to follow.

A superb book with many photos of an era that depicts two nations in transition, India the Jewel in the Crown striking out on its own and Great Britain, suddenly realising that its days as the greatest Empire in the world have come to an end, not so much a tragedy as the inevitability of change in a world flinging of the chains of colonial paternalism.
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on 31 July 2007
An extremely impressive first work from Alex von Tunzelmann. Clearly very thoroughly researched, the book manages to wear its scholarship lightly and is written with wit and a sophistication that is refreshing in works of this nature. The author views the tumultuous events of 1947, so relevant in this sixtieth anniversary year, through the prism of the personalities of, and the personal relationships between, the main players on the Anglo-Indian stage. The result is an immensely readable history and perceptive analysis of the partition of India and the role played in its genesis and execution by the Mountbattens, Nehru, Jinnah and Ghandi (and others). There are also some fascinating photographs - not least the wonderful cover photo.
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on 18 January 2012
I find some historical books rather dry for my taste, but this book really brings this era to life. Alex von Tunzelmann succeeds in not only educating us about a time in the past but also about the intricate details of the main player's lives and characters. I found that the book gave a well researched and rounded perspective of the events that led to the eventual fall of the British Empire. The characters, like the events, are full of contradictions and flaws and that always makes for interesting reading. I studied this period of history at school and again at university, and this was a wonderful way to relive my love for this era.
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on 22 April 2008
Von Tunzelmann has made a great fist of this. It's refreshing to see the incompetence of Mountbatten put into perspective in a way that all the hagiographies up to now have not. Bear in mind the Mountbatten's steadfastly refuse access to their archives to any serious historian (just read Zeigler's book to see what the authorised ones write about him!) Also, due credit is given to Jinnah as the most dextrous politician in the sub continent, oh how Congress must wish they had done more to keep him on board. Not many 'secrets' as it has been commonly accepted that the relationships between Nehru and the Mountbattens were more than cordial, if only they would get with the times and throw the archives open...there's no reputation left to protect Pamela!!!
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Alex von Tunzelmann, student of history at Oxford and editor of OSU's Cherwell newspaper in 1998, passes this book as "the secret history of the end of an empire".

"Life and times of Mountbattens in India" would have been a more apt title. The book contains no secret and is not entirely about the end of the empire.

The book places too much importance on the roles of three individuals: Mountbatten, his wife Edwina and Nehru. The long struggle, mostly non violent, to evict an alien rule by a wide and deep political leadership (some meriting reverence for decades after their death) has been trivialized to a vane member of British royal family sent to unwind the empire; his flirting wife and an equally flirting visionary who led India during and after the transition.

However, one must compliment Alex von Tunzelmann for the sheer objectivity she brings into describing the events in the last days of the Raj.

Alex starts with a funny perspective: In 1577, India was a vast, mighty and magnificent empire, brilliantly organized and culturally unified, which dominated a massive swathe of the earth; and England was an underdeveloped semi-feudal realm, riven by religious factionalism and barely able to feed its masses. Now you know what alien rule does to the ruler and the ruled! However, a country divided by religion, divided by tribe, divided by caste; a society whose equilibrium derives from repulsion and exclusiveness is, as Karl Marx rightly observed, predestined to be a prey of conquest.

Did Britain rule India in discharge of "the white man's burden"? Not really. The Prince of Wales, visiting India in 1921, found the princely states far better than British India? Quite a royal endorsement against the inept colonial rule that kept the GDP stagnating for over 70 years at the time of this observation!

Is the British attitude toward India one of patronizing affection as reflected by Edwina's kindly love for Nehru? Not really. Winston Churchill astonished everyone in a dinner party by suggesting that he would have "Gandhi bound hand and foot at the gates of Delhi and let the Viceroy sit on the back of a giant elephant and trample the Mahatma into the dirt"! This reflects the kind of thinking that political leadership in India had to face! (Oh yes, I found one opinion I share with Churchill: Gandhi is a Mahatma!)

Did Mountbatten handle his role reasonably well? Mostly no; occasionally yes.

(a) In mid July 1947, while negotiations about partition, defence, finance, future of princely states and the future of 400 million people raged around him, Viceroy Mountbatten was "busy fussing about flags" seeking Union Jack in the upper canton of the flags of India and Pakistan!

(b) Ten days before independence, in the midst of the violence in Punjab, Mountbatten bothered Nehru with a list of dates upon which the Union Jack might continue to be flown in India after independence!

(c) However, he deserves some praise. In less than one year, Patel and Mountbatten achieved a larger and more closely integrated India than what had been achieved in 130 years of Mauryan rule, 180 years of Mughal empire or 90 years of British Raj.

Alex steers clear of bias in her book to an admirable extent.

One reason why, I would recommend a reading of her chapter on Kashmir.
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on 10 August 2008
I purchased this book and decided to read it on my regular flight to India.It is a very well written book and brings Lord Mountbatten to view in a real sort of way. It clearly shows what a mediocre bungling man Mountbatten really was....and maybe he and Jinnah should shoulder the deaths of the poor millions who died in the Partition riots...Freedom at Midnight by Larry Collins and Dominque Lapierre is something which I still read again and again but this book by Miss Tunzelman brings out so much in historical details which we never knew easily before. The narrative on Kashmir is excellent. (see Mr Santhanakrishnan's review) Its fascinating to know that Britain had cooly sold Kashmir for over a million pounds to Maharaja Singh, an Indian given that Britain did not own India in the first place! Perhaps in times to come ordinary down-to-earth Indians and Pakistanis may one day hopefully realise that they are two parts of one country with a similar culture and ethnicity which was divided by an alien power (in particular Churchill)with the singular intention of keeping instability in the region. Maybe then, they would throw their borders open and live in peace and happiness helping the the poor millions with moneys which are being wasted on firearms. In various parts of the world (Ireland, Middle East!!) where strife and wars occur between neighbouring countries one can always see the scheming colonial hand of the Great Britain that it was.
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on 9 May 2013
A very interesting book that is highly recomended to read. However I felt that the book should have some more information and description from the perspective of the Muslim leaders who where striving for Independence. I thought that it went on a bit too much on Gandhi and Nehru rather then Jinnah and his team. Didnt show the rifts in the Muslim community who didnt want independence. Should have shown some perspective of why indpendence for pakistan was demanded in the first place. However overall a very well written book that anyone can and should read who is interested in the sub continent.
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on 23 March 2015
my dad, his siblings and parents all born in india left India for the uk in 1947 - they were very sad and lost many of their belongings - my dad is now 85 and he really enjoyed this book and he told me he flearned many new things about partition and the consequence to families from all religions and backgrounds - he has read it twice so he doesnt miss anything - great book
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