07 March 2006

Kim

While waiting for my window to be replaced this morning, I had time to finish reading Rudyard Kipling's Kim (Amazon). I've actually been close to done for two weeks now, but I kept misplacing the book. Unlike many books, though, I had no difficulty whatsoever remembering the plot threads, so I could just pick up again where I'd left off. And this was an awesome book.

My normal reading faire is scifi/fantasy. I find most other fiction (especially mysteries) too dry to read on a regular basis. Kim does have some mystical elements in it, so perhaps that was part of why I liked it, but the writing is absolutely brilliant. I was hooked from page 1.

It is about a boy named Kim, and a Tibetan lama who forever changes his destiny. It's set in India, late 1800's. All of the sites, sounds and descriptions feel absolutely real, likely because Kipling grew up in India. Because of the lama, Kim has a chance to "change his stars" (phrase from A Knight's Tale, not Kipling), or rather, rediscover his true stars, and find they need not change.

At its heart, it's the story of a young man torn between two paths. He can serve the lama as his faithful chela, or he can serve the British government as a spy and informant. He tries to do both, to reconcile the two paths, with mixed results. Meanwhile, the lama is on a quest for a river that sprouted from an arrow shot by the Buddha. Anyone who bathes in this water will wash away all past karma and be free of the Wheel of Birth and Rebirth forever. All through the book, Kim is torn between his duty to the imperialists, to the government, and his duty to the lama. It is beautifully done, and highly recommended.

(Ironic Note: I have a Barnes & Noble edition, and it strikes me as amusing that this same edition can be purchased through Amazon)

4 comments:

Aunt Bee said...

There is an author from the 1800's named G.A. Henty. He wrote historical fiction and he dictated over 250 books and short stories to one (or more, who knows) impressive secretary! His stories, which were written for boys, are intriguing.

I read The Cat of Bubastes to Fibonacci and Kate, which was very difficult, as they would not want me to stop until I finished a chapter. They averaged around 17 pages each. I had to drink a lot of water to keep going.

The amazing thing about his work is the wide variety of cultures he takes you to. Bubastes is set in Egypt around the time that Moses fled to the wilderness after killing the Egyptian. There is even a point at which the main character meets Moses, but he has no idea who he is. Often the leading characters brush with historical figures, and sometimes they are more prominant in the story, but I haven't read one yet that had anyone famous as a lead character.

His details are impressive. In Bubastes there is a point in the book where Egyptian embalming is explained very well, which was fascinating.

Anyway, I think his books would draw you in. Like you, I like to read fantasy and science fiction, but I also enjoy a well written historical fiction.

A couple of others I have read are Orange and Green: A Tale of the Boyne and Limerick and The Young Carthaginian

Fibonacci said...

I think The Cat of Bubastes is the only one I've finished. I never did get all the way through The Dragon and the Raven, which was the first one we owned.

kate said...

I never finished that one, either. I finish about 2 of every 3 I start.

Qalmlea said...

Yeah, I know how that goes. Some books I just lose interest in. There's one by Guy Gavriel Kay (can't remember the title) that I tried to read on several occasions. I might have made it to chapter 3 on one attempt. I just couldn't get into it.

Another one, the title is something like Night of Shadows by Friedman. I think I got halfway through it once. And lost interest.