42 of 56 people found the following review helpful
Not at all a book for intelligent or informed readers,
By A Customer
This review is from: Freedom at Midnight (Paperback)
I have to disagree with the other reviewers on this one, I'm afraid ... this book does not at all present a balanced picture of the events surrounding the independence and partition of India ... much more than that, it is an attempted apology for the British role in that process & the authors' sycophancy to Mountbatten is frankly distasteful (they even mention that after reading this book, he asked them to be his biographers!! Say no more). That may be their view, which is fair enough, but they barely present, discuss, analyse or rebutt (more credible) opposing views. More dangerously in a work of popular history, it portrays the British Raj as an age of untarnished glory, with the prose practically dripping with the authors' romanticisation of the era. That may have been the experience of the tens of thousands Brits ruling India, but it obviously was not the much harsher historical reality of the hundreds of millions of exploited Indians or they clearly would not have been agitating for independece. Worse, this is a history-by-personality, embarrassingly light on meaningful or robust analysis of broader economic and social reasons for change ... and even as history-by-personality, it is one dimensional and full of caricatures. Mountbatten is always "dashing", the masses "unruly", Jinnah "cold and austere", etc etc. A very superficial and unobjective book, which is disappointing but probably explains why it sold so many copies. There is not enough space to set out the numerous misconceptions in the book, suffice to say, don't let this be your only source.
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Initial post: 19 Oct 2009 08:45:55 BDT
San Roze says:
I tend to agree with the above review that this book is not an all balanced reading material. If someone is looking for a launch pad into the innumerable books written on this subject ie the turmoil that lead to the partition of the subcontinent and the chaos that followed it, this is an excellent place to start. Being American and French, the authors seem to be pretty unbiased in their view on the leaders of the subcontinent. Nevertheless, there are rather silly mistakes they do in history which even a school kid from India or Pakistan would know. For example, Asoka was a Buddhist King born in a Jaina family and not an Hindu. The authors use this ascertain to emphasis that by using Asoka's wheel symbol on its flag India propelled itself as a Hindu nation. Also they use this point to say that Asoka was a warmonger, which is true but he gave up war and violence pretty early in his reign as Emperor of Mauryas and the wheel emblem itself was erected in honour of Buddha's ideas of peace and ahimsa. This is just but one example that the authors misinterpret history when they draw examples from beyond 1947/48. I am not quoting the other examples since I neither have the time to write an extensive review nor any reader on Amazon would have the time to read. In a nut shell, this is a good book to read as along as you are sure that you are not going to stop with this. This book is better titled "Freedom at midnight: Mountbatten's perspective". If a reader be interested in the other side of the story please read "Shameful Flight: The Last Years of the British Empire in India". Patrick French's book on this subject is said to be good too, but I have never read it so can't actually say much.
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