I opted to read this book as part of My Friend Amy’s Newsweek Challenge. Basically Newsweek came up with a list of “50 Books for Our Times”, so a bunch of us (close to 100 book bloggers) decided to each read a book and review it. Here’s how Newsweek described it:
What we do need, in a world with precious little time to read (and think), is to know which books—new or old, fiction or nonfiction—open a window on the times we live in, whether they deal directly with the issues of today or simply help us see ourselves in new and surprising ways.
Well I think Kim by Rudyard Kipling lived up to that — Kim didn’t deal directly with the issues, but it was always an underlying point. I’m not totally up-to-date on all my world history and military information, but Rudyard Kipling definitely slipped his own commentary in there.
Kim is about an orphan boy named Kimball O’Hara living in India. He grew up on the streets of Lahore and is known by the villages as Friend of all the World. When a travelling lama comes into Lahore, he knows his life is changing. The lama is searching for a River to wash away his sins, and when Kim tells him of his father’s prophesy, the lama knows they’re meant to be together.
Sometimes I had trouble following the long, poetic prose of Kipling, but I just needed to make sure I read when I had time to immerse myself. The descriptions of India and its people certainly shows Kipling’s love for his home as well as being very informative about India’s culture, history, and religions. Once I got into it, I really enjoyed reading about Kim and his story.
I think Newsweek picked this as one of the “books for our time” because of the second plot line involving “The Great Game”. It is a historical plotline without shoving the facts at you; in fact, rarely is anything mentioned outright. As I mentioned before, I’m not up on all my world history, so I visited Wikipedia and learned about The Great Game — which is what they called the rivalry between the British and Russia in Central Asia.
Overall, I enjoyed reading Kim and would be interested in brushing up on my history and then reading it again. I think that a lot of the subtle commentary was lost on me.