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on 19 February 2012
Rudyard Kipling is neither fashionable nor popular these days. That's a pity because as this collection of fourteen of his short stories amply demonstrates, he was an outstanding author and an astute observer of people - all the more so as he was only in his early twenties when he wrote them.

Almost entirely based in British India, they are windows into a time and place long gone, and of the attitudes that went with it. Kipling has a reputation these days as a bit of a Jingoist but as is clear from these tales, he was a good deal more nuanced than that - there is a great deal of respect for the indigenous populations and their ways, and the white man does not always come out on top.

The setting is instructive and worth reading for that insight alone, free of our modern prejudices. However, the setting is also context. The heart of the stories are the people they revolve around - men, women and children all feature as central characters, often as underdogs, being blown about by unfathomable forces and trying to make the best of it. Some things don't change. They are very well-observed throughout and frequently just a few lines of dialogue give the reader a strong understanding of the individual.

The stories vary in length from just five pages through to twenty-nine (for The Man Who would be King), and cover a remarkable range of genres, from social observation to horror to adventure to a semi-autobiographical childhood piece. It's therefore possible to dip in and out rather than to read straight through and perhaps more enjoyable to do so too.

One interesting and useful addition to the stories is an introduction by Cedric Watts which both previews and reviews the collection, as well as giving some information about the author and so putting the pieces into the context of his life. That too is a well-judged inclusion.

As an uncluttered window into the world of the Raj (and of 19th century Britain), I'd strongly recommend reading them - they are a fine antidote to Dickens, for example - but a more powerful reason to get a copy is simply the quality of the stories and the characters themselves therein.
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on 17 April 2012
Being a fan of the film 'The Man Who Would Be King', I was initially disappointed that this was originally only a short story.

However, on the strength of that one I happily read the others and was not disappointed. Kipling can easily be comedic, dark, horrific, pointed, incisive and icily honest. His intimate knowledge of the places, types of people, customs and peculiarities make things spring to life most vividly, and all of them together help give a rich image of life in India at the time - as well as English society.

The short stories are perfect for train journeys, by the way.
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on 30 June 2017
I find I re-read this book every now and again.
Two men against the world, against nature.
Novices in the Craft, but using for their most advantageous benefit.
Became Kings and God's then torn down, vilified and destroyed.
Crackerjack of a book!
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on 10 March 2017
Great. More people should read it.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 11 February 2014
To everyone who enjoys Kipling's work, this short book will be a delight. Interesting, captivating and amu​sing at times. Great
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on 5 April 2016
Sorry to say I have a large number of books to read so haven't read this yet. It looks interesting. With thanks
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on 30 January 2006
This is the work of a maestro....a true genius of literature. I recently read Kim by Kipling and, having always thought it to be a children's book, was delighted at the sheer quality of writing, its narrative drive, its incredible characters and colour and sense of time and place. The Man Who Would Be King, though occasionally not equalled in some of the other short stories sitting alongside it, is a classic. Anyone who recalls the film version with Michael Caine and Sean Connery, will not be disappointed.
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HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 9 October 2010
This is a great little novella from the pen of Kipling. This was in fact inspired by a couple of real events and so there is some fact in this tale. Our narrator is a journalist who meets a couple of down and out adventurers on the course of his jorneys. They tell him of there plans.

A few years later one of these adventurers turns up to tell the journalist what they managed to do. With our two adventurers planning to set themselves up in royal form they come to a remote area in Afghansistan. This tale is the story of their exploits and adventures as they plan to make themselves kings.

Not really meant to be at the time, nowadays this can be seen as a satirical allegory of European expansionism and empire building.
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on 23 November 2010
Wow, thanks Amazon for Kindle on Android (free app!). I have never read any of Kipling's works that I can remember, but as this was free to download to Kindle I thought I'd give it a go, and what a revelation! For start, the way it's written is somewhat old fashioned some may think, but is bang on for the era, and if you just take a moment to get used to the language form at the beginning, it becomes very natural within a few pages. The story is really quite interesting, set in Asia I believe in the latter 19th century, and effectively is the story of two unfortunate colonials who have grand ideas but lack the education to bring them to fruition in conventional ways.

I've really enjoyed reading this, and it really keeps my attention. Having the book on my mobile phone is great because I can open it up whenever I have 5 minutes no matter where I am.

I think I've had this 3 days and am half way through already (though I've been working most of this time!). Can't wait to see how things end up.

If you've never read a classic work then I would really encourage you to do so, and if you've read this as a kid at school, read it again, I promise you won't be disappointed!
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VINE VOICEon 24 March 2011
The Man Who Would Be King is my favourite film and leaves me with a tear in my eye every single time as Peachy explains to Brother Kipling who he and his friend Danny went off to old Kafiristan to be kings. It's a film I have watched over 20 times and always wanted to read the book. When my beloved bought me a Kindle for my birthday I wasted no time in downloading this brief tale for FREE!

It is somewhat different to the film but much of the films memorable dialogue is lifted word for word from the book - god's holy trousers, have I not put the shadow of my hand over this country, for the sake of the widow's son, etc. Furthermore, Danny Dravot is not quite as sympathetic as Sean Connery portrayed him, Peachy is more of a central figure than Michael Caine made him and Billy Fish is very, very different from the delightful version created by Sayed Jaffrey, but the book is an absolute delight. I read it in two sessions and was so glad I did. Kipling's prose is easy to read and as fresh today as it was when he wrote it when Victoria was on the throne. I loved the film and I love the book. Genuinely magnificent.
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