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Never was there such a book... brilliant!
on 21 September 2011
The book: an orphan in Lahore in around 1890 meets a wandering Tibetan priest and decides to join him in a quest to find a certain philosophical River; on the way they meet all India, adventures, and even his inheritance. But it is not (only) his inheritance that makes him grow up to what he is - it is his friendships, his nosiness, his persistence and his sense of mischief. And while Kim becomes part of the Great Game, his Lama meditates upon life and earthly desires, and how to reach spiritual freedom. Wandering over the plains and in the hills, these two unlikely companions meet, it seems, all India, and some more besides.
My opinion: I am not sure whether Kipling is a great writer; some of his books don't move me, much. But this is certainly a great book. It has everything: growing up, espionage, adventure, travel, mysticism, fun. Set in colonial India ("the only democratic land in the world") and written by a typical empire aficionado, it shows respect for all classes of people (well, except maybe Russian and French spies) in a way I like, and that includes many religions. A wonderful book, re-readable at regular intervals, too; I think I am on my sixth reading, but it could as well be the tenth. Very Victorian, but also very timeless - brilliant.
And which edition to read? Well, I would say an old one like the thin-paper Macmillan ones, illustrated by J. Lockwood Kipling and smelling of long ago...