Kim – Rudyard Kipling

A short review, since Kim is a classic, and surely has been read more often than most of the books I’ve reviewed here. I hardly need to summarise the story: Kim O’Hara, the orphaned son of a former soldier in an Irish regiment, grows up as ‘Little-Friend-of-all-the-World’ in Lahore. Whilst accompanying a Tibetan lama on a pilgrimage, Kim – at the age of thirteen – makes his first forays into the ‘Great Game’ of espionage, played in India, and encounters his father’s old regiment. He is shipped off to school in Lucknow, his schooling paid for by the lama, and during the holidays, returns to his former life in the bazaars and temples of India, no-one suspecting that he is a sahib. Later, on completing his studies, he is recruited into the secret service, and plays a part in obtaining important papers from foreign spies.

Kim is a fantastic book. The thing which stands out for me is the book’s humanity – the people Kim meets are sketched with affection and understanding, and their good and bad sides allowed to show. Kim himself is not allowed to be perfect, but he is endearing and likeable. It’s also fun to catch glimpses of characters who appear in Plain Tales from the Hills, Kipling’s earlier work set in India, such as Lispeth the Hill-girl, and Strickland-sahib the policeman. The book is exciting and fascinating and touching in equal measure, and lifts the spirits. Definitely one to re-read.

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