My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Kim (1901) by Rudyard Kipling is one of those rare books that last through the decades but would never be published as a ‘new’ novel in modern times.
Often I find that the classics are “classics” because they are written in a style that is no longer preferred; ‘classics’ does not mean ‘great’ but, perhaps, means ‘old and forgotten’. None the less, rather an outdated classic or not, Kim was an enjoyable read.
The story of Kim (Kimball O’Hara) is one of adventure and history, set in India around the time between the 2nd and 3rd Afghan Wars and at a time when Russia and Great Britain conflicted their presence and control in Central Asia.
Early on, Kim, as a young orphan on the street in Lahore, befriends the Tibetan Teshoo Lama, who is seeking the River (or also known as the ‘River of the Arrow’ upon the “Road” — a hint of Cormac McCarthy there).
Kim’s father was once in the British army, and so Kim makes his way to a regiment, through the Lama’s guidance and that of a horse dealer named Mahbub Ali, and with the help of an old prophecy Kim has remembered as ‘the red bull in a green field’.
Kim gains his formal education, after already being educated upon the streets, and his future is mapped and outlined by Colonel Creighton for aid in helping to work both sides of the fence, the Indian public and the British army, as what is known as the Great Game, or the secret intelligence conspiring in India at the end of the 19th century.
Most of the book is set in dialogue, and even so can make for a difficult read since the characters who are speaking are set in a time and place that no longer exist and has not existed in over a century. Nevertheless, once Kipling’s cadence is picked up the story gives birth to a culture and region that is still quite fascinating.
In the end, however, the book does focus a great deal on the lama despite Kim being the protagonist and holding the eponymous title. As for the plot and action, there is not much compared to modern novels, but there is a spiritual essence that fills the pages and one can only hope that the best, regardless of the awful circumstances, will come to the lama and Kim.
A recommended read simply because it is a cherished classic. But what does that mean anymore when readers thrive for simplicity? If seeking simplicity, turn away. If seeking a story told true, then by all means, open the book cover and begin on page one.
CG FEWSTON has been a Visiting Scholar at the American Academy in Rome (Italy), and a Visiting Fellow at Hong Kong’s CityU. He has a B.A. in English, an M.Ed. in Higher Education Leadership (honors), an M.A. in Literature (honors), and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing & Fiction. He was born in Texas in 1979.
He’s the author of several short stories and novels. His works include A Father’s Son (2005), The New America: A Collection (2007), Vanity of Vanities (2011), A Time to Love in Tehran (2015), and forthcoming: Conquergood & the Center of the Intelligible Mystery of Being; Little Hometown, America: A Look Back; A Time to Forget in East Berlin; and, The Endless Endeavor of Excellence.
You can read more about the author on Facebook @ cg.fewston – where he has 350,000+ followers