This post is part of the 2016 April A to Z Challenge.
Rudyard Kipling’s Kim is one of those childhood stories that stays with you.
Kim is the orphaned son of an Irish soldier stationed in Lahore, which back in the nineteenth century when the story takes place, was still part of British India.
He’s a street-smart beggar and a vagabond, and so accustomed to living among the poorest of the poor in Lahore, that barely anyone notices that he is white, a sahib, and not Indian.
Reflecting both the time of its creation and Kipling’s own childhood in India, Kim is full of colonialism, imperialism and even racism, however, Kipling is a wonderful storyteller and this tale has stood the test of time.
Kim is brilliant, even though he has had no formal education and barely knows about his heritage. He meets a lama who is in search of a river to wash away his sins. They join together, and Kim becomes the lama’s chela, his student. From these humble beginnings, the story soon turns into one of espionage when Kim’s craftiness is discovered and he is sent to school to become a surveyor and help in the Great Game. Kim is torn between his role as a chela, and the espionage business he seems so proficient at. At the heart of it, it’s a beautiful and touching story about the friendship between Kim and the lama. Their relationship is unbelievably moving as the two care very much about each other, and while Kim understands the lama’s spiritual nobility, he is still hindered by his more earthly ambitions. It’s a relationship built on companionship and mutual respect.
Kipling’s descriptions of India are incredibly evocative, colourful and nuanced. They bring India to life in such rich and layered detail that all that’s missing is the smell of the spices to make it palpable. It’s a story for every reader – it’s got a quest, espionage, friendship and spirituality, but it’s also full of interesting individuals and quite possibly the richest and most colourful description of India ever put on paper.
My Rating: ♥♥♥♥
Author: Rudyard Kipling
Release Date: October 25, 2012 (first published in 1901)