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4.4 out of 5 stars
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4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 13 January 2000
I adored this book. Instead of the usual bland statements of a by-stander on the look-out for material for a book, Dalrymple has very obviously written a book about what he has seen in the course of many years' dedicated observation and investigation. The writing is as consistently finely-tuned as his observations, and his depth of knowledge enables him to throw light with what appears to be great ease on complex cultural, historical and religious issues.
I was born in India, left at the age of two and have returned for numerous visits since. Such entertaining and informative writing helps to explain and endear a country about which, on some levels, I know a fair amount, and on other levels I have often felt at a great loss to even begin to comprehend. In particular, the chapter about Hyderabad, fascinated me. My mother has often told stories of the great wealth and beauty of the city when she was growing up there in an affluent Muslim neighbourhood, but having seen it only in the 1970s to 1990s, I found these stories slightly unbelievable. Reading Dalrymple's book will certainly make me look at the city in a new light next time I visit, as it has explained the context and history of it with an insight and an interest that I have not found elsewhere.
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on 11 January 2000
This set of journalistic essays on the state of the Indian subcontinent (India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka) in the 1990s should be essential reading for every visitor to this remarkable part of the world. The topics are wide-ranging, shocking, disturbing, uplifting and always absorbing. From political corruption to the Bombay glitterati to religious fervour and the caste system, William Dalrymple provides insights into numerous aspects of contemporary India. A lesson in history, economics, politics, religion, not to mention bigotry, hatred and corruption. A clash between the new and the old and the present day problems caused by this in Indian society is the overwhelming theme. He has a most readable style and his own fascination comes across in his writing. It reminded me intensely of why I both loved and hated India when I travelled there - and also made me ashamed of knowing so little of the local way of life (a bit like the narrator of "Are you experienced?" when he meets the journalist!) I can't recommend this book highly enough.
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on 30 August 2017
William Dalrymple's books are always fascinating to read, he has traveled so widely in India & Pakistan & talked to such interesting people, his books are so well written & readable. This one leaves one feeling a little sad about how things were going in these countries at the time he wrote this book. I wonder how he feels about things in the area nowadaya.
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on 27 October 2015
If you know India you will relate to this book. It's like being there. You don't know if you are faced with the best or the worst of humanity.
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on 6 April 2017
Quality copy, fast delivery.
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on 2 July 2007
William Dalrymple's 'The Age of Kali' carries the subtitle 'Indian Travels and Encounters' but actually includes writings on Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the Indian Ocean island of Reunion (in fact a département of France). It is less a historical analysis in the mold of the brilliant 'City of Djinns' but a collection of essays and articles, most of which were previously commissioned and published by magazines and newspapers. Much more jounalistic in style, it is arguably more informal than some of his other books, but no less engaging or informative for that. His obvious love for the sub-continent is reflected in a gently ironic voice that somehow makes light work of the tales of atrocity, corruption and ineptitude here. He is not as pessimistic or misanthropic as Paul Theroux, and is able to imbue his descriptions of even the most hopeless situations with a comic absurdity. Although the content of the book is highly contemporaneous - the pace of development in India and the shifting political landscape post-911 makes parts of the book seem a little dated - the book gives a comprehensive overview of the forces at work on the subcontinent.

Whereas 'City of Djinns' and his later work 'White Mughals' were heavy on historical narratives and anecdotes, 'The Age of Kali' finds the author a more visible presence. Like in his stunning debut 'In Xanadu', the book leaves you impressed by his bravery in pursuit of his subject. From accessing the base camps of the Tamil Tigers to travelling the lawless mountain routes of Northern Pakistan, Dalrymple builds a vivid and remarkable picture of the region seldom exposed by journalists of any nationality, and often with considerable personal risk. Although the book has no unifying objective, the articles included build an informative overview without any prescriptive remit. If you enjoy this - which you should - you should read the aforementioned titles in the author's back catalogue. If you want to complement it with some fiction, try Rohinton Mistry's 'A Fine Balance' or 'Family Matters'.
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on 27 October 1999
The first time I visited India (1984)it was a great experience, but I felt it could well be the last time I'd been there. The fact that we had to stay four more days because of another mistake by Air India (does that sound familiar?) might have had something to do with this. Well after that first visit I've been back four times, so I'm seriously addicted to this fascinating country and it's inhabitants. The moment I'm out of the airport and into the bustle totally at home. Unlike lots of other travelogues William Daymple's book gives the same feeling of coming home, of feeling at home in India. And that's exactly the reason I like it very much.But even if you visited India and htd it, this book is a must. After reading it you know exactly why you never want to go back again. Or maybe ou might one day?
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on 31 July 1999
William Dalrymple's "Age of Kali" is one on the best books about the Indian way of life that I've read.
Having travelled across India I can safely say that reading this book is almost as good as being there. You can "feel" India, you can hear it and you can smell it as you sit, transported. I loved every inch of India and I loved every word in this great book.
Not since James Cameron's "Indian Summer" and Vikram Seth's "Suitable Boy" have I felt this way.
Wonderful!!
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on 7 December 2010
I was recommended this book by a Sikh from Lucknow.
At first I was very enthusiastic. However Dalrymple makes occasional comparisons with Europe and I realised that, while he may understand India, he doesn't understand European history and culture, which is a pity. The comparisons play to popular and factually false prejudices about the Church and the Middle Ages.

Two thirds of the book is devoted to India (reasonable - it is subtitled `Indian Travels and Encounters') and the final third to Sri Lanka, Réunion and Pakistan which are not India and which I didn't want. Society is different in basically-Hindu India from that in basically-Moslem Pakistan. And with 30 pages devoted to him, I do think that Imran Khan and his world featured a little too well.

Dalrymple's encounters in India illustrate some of the facets of the land - corruption, glamour, cast problems etc. and here he achieves a interesting and informative balance between describing individual lives and the social/ political background. I would have enjoyed reading about more facets of Indian life.
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on 29 July 1999
William Dalrymple described this work as "a labour of love" and his affection for the people, culture and eccentricities of India is on every page. He also casts an eye over some of the darker aspects of life in the subcontinent; the terrifying slide into anarchy in Bihar and Lucknow; the commonplace abuse of political power and influence; the apparent social exclusion and divisiveness imposed by the caste system and the omnipresent poverty. This is a very fulfilling book and a delight to read. At times very amusing (the portraits of certain Bollywood celebs made me laugh out loud) and at other times sober and cautionary, it made me want to return to India straight away. The book is easy to read, being set out in a series of accessible chapters, themselves divided into bite-sized pieces which even the shortest attention span will be able to manage! Working logically around the districts of the country from the north to the south Dalrymple serves up a rich banquet in which each succeeding dish is as good as the one before. I recommend it very highly.
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