Book #78-Kim by Rudyard Kipling

A young orphan of Irish parentage fends for himself in the British ruled India in the late 1800’s.  So immersed into Indian society, the young Kim whose skin is darkened, passes as a native to most he encounters.  He travels the road of life with influential men who may lead him either astray or into enlightenment.

Young Kim is a tough and savvy survivor.  His mother dies of cholera shortly after his birth and his alcoholic father dies when Kim is still a young boy, but leaves with him a great legend of a red bull that is taken to heart by the impressionable son.  He lives with an unnamed woman who instills the father’s legacy, but Kim eventually ends up on his own.  He is influenced by powerful men who lead him down very separate paths, yet both teach very significant lessons.  I really liked this boy.

The lama, on a religious journey from Tibet, encounters the young Kim and is impressed with his genuine aid and guidance.  He embodied exactly what one would expect of a Tibetan lama; patience, wisdom, discipline, etc.  He asks Kim to be his disciple and travel with him in search of an arrow in an unknown river.  With the perfect balance of knowing when to step in and when to step back, he leaves quite the indelible mark on Kim.  I was left with a feeling of calm in recollecting this character.

The horse trader Mahbub Ali has a more practical influence with Kim.  Not a forthright man, he has trained the boy well in the arts of deception, as evidenced when Kim passes all of his loyalty tests without blinking an eye.  Spying for the British, he thinks nothing of using Kim to pass along messages to like minded men, referred to not by name but by code names such as E23.  At some level, he does appear to care for the young lad and does come to his aid more than once.  That the boy should follow in his footsteps is what he believes to be best for Kim.  Not an easy man to like.

Having led such an interesting life, I’m sure I would enjoy the company of Mr. Kipling.  I’d love to talk to him about his travels.  Kipling produced an extensive volume of work, much renowned.  I’d love to get some tips on how he was able to produce such a great body of work.

At times, I found some of the novel confusing and did rely heavily on the accompanying notes which were both helpful and distracting.  This may be why I can’t say I really loved Kim.

My rating for Kim  is a 7 out of 10.

To see the entire list, visit Modern Library’s 100 Best Novels.

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Next up, E. M. Forster’s A Room With A View…


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