Monday, 1 February 2010

Kim by Rudyard Kipling

I’ve been a bit remiss on reviewing my books this past week or so. I just couldn’t get into the mindset for reviews. The reason why came to me this weekend: I’ve hit on a patch of decidedly Meh books. How are you supposed to get excited about writing a review when the books you’ve been reading really aren’t that good?

OK, good is a relative term in the book world. My gem is someone else’s reading nightmare and vice versa. Good is in the ear of the reader really, so I’ll just say that they weren’t much to my taste.

The first review I need to write in for Rudyard Kipling’s Kim, which is apparently one of Kipling’s finest books. The story is that of a young English boy whose parents die while in India, leaving him alone in the world. Having spent all of his young life in India, Kim decides he prefers the ways of the natives to the ways of the sahib (white men) and runs away from the orphanage to the streets of Lahore where he lives very happily by begging and running errands. He is a smart boy and loves secrets, which he later turns to profit in rather clever means which keep him from being branded a snitch. His potential is recognized my one of his employers but he is still too young to be of real use.

One day, Kim meets a Tibeten Lama who is searching for a river which will wash away his sin. Kim joins him in his search and becomes his chela (disciple). The two wander down the grand trunk road where they meet many people and Kim is able to help some of his old friends out by passing along messages. Kim, too, is on a pilgrimage, although he does not know it yet. It has been prophesied that he will meet a red bull on a green field which will take him to his destiny. What Kim finds out is that his destiny takes him closer to the sahibs than he really wants to go.

The story itself is a good one and I’m fairly surprised Disney hasn’t adapted it yet, because that could be done – OK, a substantial loss of the story would be the result, but when doesn’t Disney cause a substantial loss of story? Anyhoo, once I finally figured out what was going on, the story was good. My main qualm with the book lay in the language. I’m sure it’s a masterpiece of Anglo/Indian literature and a good record that particular culture, but if you haven’t grown up with that influence, the pigeon English is a bugger to understand. I had to read and re-read passages several time to understand how we got from point A to point B. It also occasionally required stretching your imagination to understand what they meant with the words used in the novel, i.e. the words themselves made no sense unless you looked at them in context and used your imagination. It’s like referring to a three legged man (get your minds out of the gutter!) and meaning a man with a cane, only for someone who grew up with no knowledge of that culture, it could be pretty difficult to draw those conclusions.

In the end I’m unsure how I should rate this book. It’s not one I’ll read again, although if I did I’m sure it would be easier to get through. Tough to read, but a good story. I guess if you’re partial to India and Anglo-Indian culture, than you would like this book. If not, I’d say give it a miss. There are better reads out there


Jeane said...

I did like this book when I read it as a teen, but it's been so long I wonder if I would have a different opinion of it if I tried it again.

Scrabblequeen said...

Probably my favorite Kipling, yes, even over either Jungle Book! I guess the language issue wasn't an issue for me, which helped my enjoyment considerably.

Lula O said...

You are so right about Disney adaptations! I should try this one. Thanks for the review!