This book reads like a novel but is history as you rarely hear it. The vast amount of research that must have been done is never intrusive. People, events, even technical and geographical defails, are all wonderfully expressed. This book is an insight into a social milieu at a time of upheaval that is well worth reading. I’m about to read it again.
This is a very perceptive book about Britain and India in the forties. There is a bit of everything, war, politics art and much more. Baker, a Pulitzer finalist, weaves all these into a compelling and enlightening read. At times you are in a maze of detail and it is easy to lose your way. One minute you are in Katmandu, the next in a Cornwall cottage, then Kensington and then on a Karakoram glacier.
The listing of a dramatis personae proves to be very necessary as there are more than fifty. Of these almost a half belong to the Calcutta circle. The author's research is impressive. Of particular interest to this reviewer is her description of the infighting in the Indian Congress party. It is accurate and balanced.
This account however is not just about knowledge. It is an excellent example of how to write non-fiction lightly. Engaging does not need to be reserved for fiction. No doubt the fact that Baker's husband is a novelist helps. The result is a book that combines the best of non-fiction writing with fiction.
Read this dazzling book along with Wade Davis' superb: 'Into the Silence', 2012 which won the Samuel Johnson Prize. She follows on from that book with the 1930s and later story of attempts to climb Everest. The Himalayas serve as a metaphor for Britain's eventual loss of India. Nehru once said he was the last Englishman to rule India. The fact he had been educated at Harrow and Cambridge gave him the right credentials. But as Baker shows many of the Indian elite who fought for independence were Oxbridge graduates. They tore daily into the unfairness of British rule while eating expensive meals in top English restaurants, and educating their children in our best public schools.
Baker traces the end of empire and the beginnings of a new global order. There are : three parts and twenty chapters, notes, and a short bibliography.