by Rudyard Kipling

Other authorsRobin Jacques (Illustrator)
Hardcover, 1990




Easton Press (1990), Reprint. Leatherbound.


Classic Literature. Fiction. HTML: The orphan Kim, whose father was an Irish soldier, makes his living by begging on the streets of Lahore and running errands. An aged Tibetan Lama is on a journey to find the mythical "River of the Arrow" and in doing so free himself from the Wheel of Things. Becoming his disciple, Kim joins the Lama to travel along the Grand Trunk Road. But Kim also gets himself involved in the Great Game, Russia and Britain's political conflict in Central Asia, and is given a task by the British - to carry a message to Umballa's British commander..

User reviews

LibraryThing member thorold
Kim is another of those books that comes with a great deal of baggage: some of it reasonable, some not. It would be great to be able to say simply "this is a great adventure story" and enjoy it on its own terms, but I think the reader has to be aware of at least some of the assumptions Kipling is
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asking us to make about the world. Penguin clearly don't want us to enjoy the book at all, as their Penguin Modern Classics edition comes with a rather depressing introductory essay and some tediously pedantic notes by the late Edward Said.

Is it a great spy story? I don't think so - although I heard Dame Stella Rimington, who may be presumed to know a thing or two about spying in India, talking it up as such on the BBC the other day. Whilst Kim's training with Lurgan Sahib is plausible, Kim's big success against the French and Russian agents is a direct consequence of their incompetence - if they'd taken any sensible precautions against counter-espionage at all, Kim and his friends would never have been able to foil their dastardly plans. Some of the tradecraft Kim is taught seems a bit suspect too - what intelligence organisation would be daft enough to give all of its agents a common recognition signal? One traitor would be enough to blow the whole organisation.

Is it a handbook for military adventures on the North-West frontier? If that's how it is being used, it might explain the current lack of progress of NATO forces in Afghanistan. Anyone who's read Peter Hopkirk's books knows that by the time Kim was written, the danger of Russian incursions into India and Afghanistan, if it ever existed, was long past. There was, as there always has been, unrest among some of the Muslim communities in the area, but Kipling doesn't tell us anything about that. Kipling's view of the Great Game is a fantasy, and probably has more to do with the costly and unsuccessful colonial war of the moment (South Africa) than with India.

Is it a primer in basic Buddhism? Probably not. There is no coherent explanation of what Buddhists actually believe, or why. We do get glimpses of the way the lama's religious beliefs help him to deal with concrete situations, but we are led to attribute his qualities to his own strength of character, as much as to his Buddhism. He is really a kind of generic holy man - he would be just as plausible if he were a Baptist or a Benedictine.

Is it imperialist? Yes, of course it is. Kipling was firmly convinced that it was the duty of the British to run India, because he felt that they could do a better job than anyone else. This was a minority view (especially in Britain itself), but it was considered a perfectly respectable political standpoint at the time, and Kipling at least had some experience of the realities of colonial India from his time as a journalist. Said is right, of course, to draw attention to the way that Kipling selectively shows us Indians who support the British Raj, and ignores other viewpoints.

Is it racist? Certainly, although the passages Said draws attention to are mostly just evidence of a failure to distinguish between racial and cultural characteristics, which is common to most writers of the period. Kipling compensates for this laziness to a large extent by the way the two most important Indian characters, Mahbub Ali and the Babu, are drawn as individuals who transcend racial stereotypes (in fact, both of them are conscious of the way Europeans stereotype them, and exploit this perception for their own ends). However, in the case of Kim, we have someone who as grown up to all intents and purposes in an Indian cultural environment, having lost his European parents at a very young age, but who nevertheless has a special destiny because of his racial origins. I don't think we can absolve Kipling of racism on this point: on the other hand, it is an assumption Kipling pushes so far into the foreground that I don't see how any modern reader of the book could fail to be conscious of it: it's simply a point that we have to accept as one of the underlying assumptions of the book.

Is it a great novel? Yes, of course! Kipling wasn't very successful with the novel in general, but this is the one place where he produced a full length novel that can stand up with the best of them. Interestingly, Said chooses to compare Kim side-by-side not with other adventure stories, but with Hardy's Jude the obscure, making the point that most novels of the period were about frustrated hopes and ambitions, but that the freedom of movement offered by a colonial setting allowed Kipling to write a novel about possibilities seized and opportunities exploited. Hardy can be put side-by-side with Kipling in other ways too: both were fascinated by the voices of ordinary working people, and produced rich, if idealised, views of traditional societies confronted by the modern age. You can certainly imagine Mahbub Ali the horse trader doing business with Michael Henchard the corn merchant. It's probably not a huge exaggeration to say that Hardy's rural Wessex would have been as remote and exotic as Kipling's India to the average urban middle-class reader in 1901.
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LibraryThing member DeltaQueen50
Published in 1901, Kim by Rudyard Kipling has rightly become a beloved classic over the years. Possessing all the ingredients needed for a grand adventure story, this tale goes a step further with it’s wondrous descriptive writing and it’s close look at the India Kipling knew so well. To this
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is added well defined and interesting characters and a bitter-sweet coming of age plot line.

The story revolves around Kimball O’Hara who, at the beginning of the story, is living as a native orphan on the streets of Lahore. He meets and makes an instant connection with a wandering lama from Tibet. Together they embark upon a journey, both spiritual and actual. Travelling the crowded rails and dusty roads of India, meeting many interesting people along the way. Kim becomes the lamas disciple or “chela” and his love and respect for the older man grows. That these feelings are returned is obvious as well. Eventually Kim meets up with a company of soldiers from his father’s Irish Regiment who take him under their wing. With his ability to blend into the native population, he soon finds himself involved in “The Great Game” as a British agent.

High adventure indeed, but for me it was the detailed descriptions of India, the sights, the smells and the people that made this book special. From the crowded marketplace to the dusty plains, Kipling’s colourful writing brings India to life.

Kim is a book that I can see reading over and over again as I believe every read would give you a different perspective. Truly a classic.
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LibraryThing member CurseYouKhan
I have just read Rudyard Kipling’s novel Kim and am in awe of it.

My mother had suggested a few times that I read it and so, of course, I didn’t. This was a triumph of stubbornness over experience. My mother has a few intellectual quirks (Mets fan?) but has never, ever steered me wrong in a book
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Prior to reading Kim, all I knew of Kipling was

1. he wrote the wonderful Just So Stories
2. his reputation as a stuffy defender of the British Empire
3. and is author of one a great poem about the plight of forgotten veterans, The Last of the Light Brigade.

There were thirty million English who talked of England’s might,
There were twenty broken troopers who lacked a bed for the night.
They had neither food nor money, the had neither service nor trade;
They were only shiftless soldiers, the last of the Light Brigade.

None of which prepared me for Kim.

It is the story of an orphaned son of a British soldier, Kim, who has spent his early childhood as a beggar in the Indian city of Lahore. As a result he is both of Britain and of India in a very deep way. He comes into the service of both a Tibetan Lama and the British Secret Service. (If you need it there’s a very good plot summary here. ) The rest of the book concerns the adventures that come about as a result of this. And Moby Dick is a guide to whales.

While it has a wonderful adventure story as its frame, Kim is a book about reconciling the spiritual and the physical. It also has an wondrous story of the love between Kim and the Lama who becomes, in essence, his adopted grandfather.

For the most part the spiritual is shown in the people of Asia and India. One of the many things that makes Kim an exceptional story is that the indigenous people are rendered as complete human beings. They are not what my friend Steven calls “magical black people” who are only in the story to educate or help the white folks. (Steven is African-American so he uses another word instead of “black people.” He gets to do that.) If you would like an example of the Magical Black Person genre see the movies The Legend Of Bagger Vance, Driving Miss Daisy, Bruce Almighty and on and on and on…

Nor are all the Asians and Indians “spiritually minded.” Many, like the spy and horse trader Mahbub Ali, are as pragmatic and skeptical as anyone from the world of the British ruling class. On the other side, the spy Lurgan – a Brit – is an adept of the mysteries and wonders of Asian and Indian non-rationalist thought.

The Brits are not denied a spiritual life nor is the Christian tradition denigrated. It is just presented as alien to and useless in India and related lands. Although the Christian belief system is respected, the clergy are not. There is some very fair lampooning of one minister but he is ridiculed for being closed minded not for what he believes in per se.

Both British and Asian cultures are portrayed as less-than perfect but with each is also shown to have their own distinct and separate strengths. These can crudely be called the mechanical vs. the magical. Kipling neither faults nor exults one over the other. His chief criticism of both is their inability to appreciate and tap into each other. This is what makes Kim’s development into their synthesis so emotionally powerful.

All that said, make no doubt that Kim is a racist novel. Its racism is sometimes subtle and sometimes blatant. The edition I read (Penguin Classics) includes a fine essay by Edward Said that does an excellent job of highlighting that racism and placing it in context without forgiving it or explaining it away. As Said points out the subtle racism can only be understood by what is left out of Kim. Although the Indian and Asian characters are full people not one even considers that they should not be ruled by the British. The more obvious moments of racism involve references to stereotypical “Eastern” behaviors and ways of doing things. In fact these references are so at odds with the rest of the novel that they stand out and interrupt the rest of the story.

Without giving Kipling a pass for his racism, it is worth noting that the most truly egregious stereotypes are reserved for other Europeans. A French secret agent is vaguely effeminate and totally condescending toward everyone else. His Russian partner is stupid and brutally ruthless. Neither is particularly clean. As neither France or Russia were subjected to colonization these stereotypes do not bother me in the least.

One of the tremendous accomplishments of this novel is that it forced me to accept, question and consider how a work of art could be both racist and essential at the same time. In the case of Kim it pulls this off by never letting us forget that nearly everyone in it is a human being, even while it refuses to consider any challenges to the author’s status quo.

For me Kim ultimately is about the effort to reconcile the power and significance of the unseen and unknowable with the power and significance of the mundane. What makes it so successful is that it offers no conclusions on the topic. When the Teshoo Lama finally stumbles upon the river that he has been searching for – one whose waters will cleanse his karma — it is left up to you to decide whether it is “The River” or a stream or both.

*Currently reading her copy of Karen Armstrong’s Short History of Myth. I will be returning it to her because half-way through I decided I had to own a copy. So there.
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LibraryThing member Cecrow
The novel "Kim" is unique in the English literary canon: the only novel by a significant British author that features India as its setting at a time when the British Raj was still flourishing. We're lucky to have this product of Rudyard Kipling's in-depth knowledge of life in India, a knowledge
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acquired thanks to his upbringing. Kipling was born in India and raised there, son of a British curator stationed at the Lahore museum (his father makes a cameo appearance in the novel's first chapter.) Authors to follow would turn a critical eye on the Raj in hindsight (e.g. "A Passage to India"). By comparison this one (and Kipling in general) is sometimes argued as endorsing imperialism. To the extent this is true, it is only for the lack of that criticism. The author's love and respect for the nation of his birth and its peoples shines from every page.

I enjoyed the characters, especially Kim and the wise but fumbling Buddhist lama whom he adores. Kim matures about halfway through, at which point the novel loses some of its charm - I preferred the irascible child to the confident teenager - but there are still moments to treasure and Kim remains the same boy at heart. Mahbub Ali and Hurree Babu are also standouts. The British characters are the least interesting, except for Lurgan who seems to be a practiced magician of some sort. I'm still not certain what's taking place in the scene concerning the broken jar. Is it an illusion, hypnotism ...?

I also appreciated the 'peaceful coexistence' portrayal of India's wealth of diverse religions and peoples. Among the fourth chapter's descriptions of the Grand Trunk Road, there are people stopping to "make a prayer before one of the wayside shrines - sometimes Hindu, sometimes Mussalman - which the low caste of both creeds share with beautiful impartiality." It's refreshing to see religious diversity being extolled and maintained as a background element rather than made the source of a story's conflict.

"Kim" is sometimes taken for a children's novel for its simple plotting, light theme, and featuring a youth as protagonist. Our own children might enjoy the exploits of street-smart Kim (especially his sharp tongue), but I think it requires an adult's perspective to best appreciate the setting's portrayal.
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LibraryThing member jjvors
[Kim] by [[Rudyard Kipling]] I first read this book about 40 years ago in my teens. I found it confusing and hard to understand: Kipling used dialect and a lot of Indian and British vocabulary. I also was more focused on plot than the descriptive sections.

Forty years later I read it again and
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thought it was one of the best books I've read all year. It is a "coming of age" yarn, with deep background on British ruled India, the relationships between various Indian cultures, and the ruling British.

For the 21st century American reader, what is striking about Kim's tale is how little material benefits are considered valuable; rather, it is the quality of one's work that is prized by the British and the Indians alike. There is no political correctness in the book: various cultures strengths and weaknesses are depicted and the English do not come out as the most noble of the group.

That is all background. For the plot, Kim, an Irish solder's orphan (Kimball O'Hara), lives on the streets of India, passing as a Indian. What may be missed by Americans is that at the time, this was rather counter cultural of Kipling to make the hero an Irish lad. Kim's nickname is "Friend of All the World", for he befriends all, but is taken in by none. Then he gets involved in intelligence work with the British foreign service while accompanying an aged Tibetan lama.

By all means read this book, and enjoy it.
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LibraryThing member Figgles
Extraordinary, a beautiful, rich, moving story of a boy coming of age in British India. I had heard so much of what it was (Imperialist etc) and that is just not so. It is more a Buddhist book than an imperialist and the heart of it is the love between the Red Lama and the the orphan. The picture
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of India is drawn with passion and love and the richness of the people and life is contrasted often with the inadequacy of some of the British. I see echoes of Kim in many of my favourite books - look at the Shasta in the Horse and His Boy, at Lyra in His Dark Materials, at John Buchann's Sandy Arbuthnot and in real life at Lawrence of Arabia... And although the adventure and spy story drive the narrative the long trip into the himmalayas is a spiritual quest the culmination of the book one of spiritual fulfilment (and something of the feel of the last chapters of Lord of the Rings also) Highly recommended! (Oddly many of my friends said they were made to read it in Scouts - and it's full of what these days would be called strong language, violence, drug use and sexual references - go Kipling!)
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LibraryThing member soylentgreen23
I've struggled for a long time to make up my mind about this book, and I think I'll struggle on for a while longer too. Is it rank British Imperialism? Or a sweetly bitter tale of a boy's coming of age? It's hard to tell; the description of India is romantic and evocative enough to make the journey
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intriguing though, if nothing else.
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LibraryThing member Matke
Poor Kim. Like author Kipling, the boy Kim is torn between East and West.
As a young orphan, Kim befriends a lama who is on a quest for the River of the Arrow, which will cleanse him of his sins and help him attain enlightenment. Very soon Kim becomes completely devoted to the Teshoo Lama, will
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follow him anywhere, serving the Lama as his chela, or disciple. Kim’s love for this man is complete and touching. And the Lama’s love for Kim is equally strong.
Meanwhile, though, Kim has come to the attention of the British governmental spy system. They’re eager to exploit the boy’s amazing talent in languages, his ability to adopt the manners and dress of any one of the many cultures in India, his outstanding memory and mental strength, and his desire for adventure.
In a slightly complicated plot line, Kim is sent to a British school, learns surveying, and, at 17, is sent on a dangerous and important mission.
Kim’s continued devotion to his Lama, his bravery and cleverness, and his sense of fun all work together to make him beloved by many of the men who oversee his education, bookish and otherwise.
But. Has it all been too much weight for his slim shoulders? Does he have a nervous collapse, perhaps made worse by dengue fever? And what will Kim make of his adult life? He accomplishes his mission, but takes a long time to recover, physically and emotionally, from the strain.
The reader is given a tiny glimpse that all may not go well for Kim. And yet it might.
I loved this book when I first read it, and I love it still today. I do have one response to those who say Kipling indulges in stereotyping here, citing the character of Babu. Babu is often afraid, and is the only character who admits to that. And yet he risks his life and the acute possibility of torture, both to accomplish British aims and to save Kim and the Lama. I would argue that he’s a true hero: smart enough to be afraid, but brave and loyal enough to overcome those very real fears and do what he sees as the right thing, and his duty.
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LibraryThing member gbill
Kipling was a very popular author during his life (1865-1936), and Kim (1901) was arguably written at the peak of his career. It tells the story of an orphaned son of an Irish soldier traveling through India, and Kipling was certainly experienced enough to write the tale, having lived there from
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1882 to 1889.

As the introduction to this volume says, “Kipling’s view of life is a deeply pessimistic one. Not only is man, as he once put it, at war with his surroundings in a world that does not care, but that world itself is without intrinsic order: chaos and anarchy constitute its true moral reality.” What better place for this worldview than India, with its harshness, diversity, and chaos.

In the story, Kim meets an aged lama and becomes his disciple, and throughout the book there is a duality between Kim’s humanistic love with the lama spiritual love. The fundamental message Kipling imparts to us is that this duality can never be “resolved” and will always exist. The novel takes place during what is referred to as “The Great Game”, that is, the political conflict between Russia and Britain in Central Asia at this time, and there is a similar “earthly” duality between this tension and the better instincts of humanity that is also shown to be unending.

Today Kipling stands for the imperialism of the age and he’s controversial today for having written “The White Man’s Burden” (ugh) two years earlier, but it is not for that Kim didn’t resonate with me. Kim was “ok” as an adventure story, “ok” as a cultural study of India, and “ok” relative to insights into spirituality or the human condition … but not strong enough at any of these for me to recommend it. I think it’s a bit overrated.

On religion:
"Thou art beyond question an unbeliever, and therefore thou wilt be damned. So says my Law - or I think it does. But thou art also my Little Friend of all the World, and I love thee. So says my heart. This matter of creeds is like horseflesh. The wise man knows horses are good - that there is a profit to be made from all; and for myself - but that I am a good Sunni and hate the men of Tira - I could believe the same of all the Faiths.”

“Bennett looked at him with the triple-ringed uninterest of the creed that lumps nine-tenths of the world under the title of ‘heathen’.”

On eating, and different cultures:
“Certain things are not known to those who eat with forks. It is better to eat with both hands for a while. Speak soft words to those who do not understand this…”
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LibraryThing member Stbalbach
I didn't like Kim in balance. It has its attractions: the rich detail of Indian culture, the search for identity and opposing forces which create a fine balance along many axis, the quest story both religious and secular, the exoticism and beauty, the child-like sense of wonderment. But the
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Orientalism, racism and subtle homoeroticism just killed it for me, there were parts that just made me cringe and want to take a shower. As Orwell said in 1942, Kipling is a paradox: "During five literary generations, every enlightened person has despised him, and at the end of that time nine-tenths of those enlightened persons are forgotten and Kipling is in some sense still there." That might be a harsh judgment and with time my feelings will probably mellow.
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LibraryThing member herebedragons
#6, 2004

I enjoyed this book . . . the story is lovely; however, it took me a long time to read, as I had trouble "processing" the language . . . partly, I think, because of the "archaic" style of writing, but also because much of the book is dialogue written to reflect a variety of Indian
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"dialects" (I hope that's the right word) . . . lots of flowery language, and sentences constructed in ways very different from English as I'm familiar with it. I had to read this book in short spurts . . . after a while, I would find I just wasn't grasping the meaning anymore of what I was reading, and I'd have to put it down and pick it up again later, when my mind was a bit "fresher." ::grin::

Having said that, it was worth the effort . . . Set in India in around the turn of the 20th century (at least, that's when it was written), it's a lovely story about a "Sahib" (English) boy who is orphaned, and grows up on the streets, as a native. Well, not even as any one type of native; he's very good at blending in with just about anyone (something that becomes very important later on). He attaches himself to a Tibetan lama, who has come to India in search of a sacred river which will free him off all sin . . . the story follows the boy, Kim, as well as the lama and a number of other people he meets along the way. It's about spying and politics and spirituality, and interactions between people with different backgrounds and beliefs. Very rich, and the way the people are with one another is so different from what I'm used to in my own time and culture . . . very interesting to read.

I think the single thing that had the most impact was the relationship between Kim and the lama . . . it's a really interesting, loving and deep relationship. Kim actually has a number of very strong friendships in the portion of his life that we follow, and it's lovely to read about people who care about one another and the interactions they have. I don't want to say too much more, or I'd be going into spoiler terrritory.

I would recommend this book, even though I found it a bit difficult to read. I tend to have trouble with that sort of thing anyway (I don't like Tolkien, either), so I suspect that's more something about the way my own brain is "wired" than an issue that most other people would have with the book.

LJ Discussion
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LibraryThing member davidpwhelan
I started this as an e-book and couldn't wait to get a print copy. Kim, short for Kimball O'Hara, is an Irish orphan in India during the Raj who gets up to all sorts of mischief until he meets a holy man, a lama from Tibet. He continues to get up to mischief but his adventures take him out across
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India, to school, and into contact with all sorts of interesting characters. It's an excellent story and was one of the many books that inspired Baden Powell as he started the Boy Scout movement. The issues relating to religion and caste would be good to discuss with younger (12 and under) readers.
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LibraryThing member mmillet
This is my dad's favorite book and he has been telling me to read this one for years. I loved the relationship aspect of this story. Kim's attachment to the Lama and vice-versa is truly inspiring. I also loved Kim's resourcefulness, he takes any situation and comes out on top. I understand now why
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my dad has to go back every few years to read it.
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LibraryThing member Stevil2001
I liked the first two-thirds or so a lot: Kim is a fun character, a young rascal with a heart of gold you might say, and his interactions with the virtuous Tibetan lama as they searched for a Buddhist holy site in British India were great. Kipling's India is very well evoked (Wikipedia claims that
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Kim inspired the exotic cultures of many science fiction novels), and their antics are fun. Once the characters separate as Kim goes to school and becomes embroiled in British espionage (on the Russians), it becomes pretty dull, unfortunately. I would have gladly read plotless traveling for ages! (I love the bit where Kim finagles a free train ride. Also the bit where he cons the British Army!)

Two small things stuck out at me, unimportant in the grand scheme of the novel, but important to me. The first is the opening chapter, where the lama talks to a museum curator in Lahore. (The curator is apparently Kipling's father.) There's an interesting alliance between the curator's Western, scientific knowledge, and the lama's Eastern, mystical knowledge-- the curator is the only Western character in the whole novel interested in the lama's quest, and the lama is the only character of any type in the novel interested in the museum. Science and mysticism align across cultures, apparently, as both are concerned with the pursuit of truth. This is a marked difference from the Christian religious figures we see, who are (hilariously) only out for the benefit of their own religion's petty causes.

The second thing that fascinated me was the sentence, "The rest was as the darkness of interstellar space." As an sf reader, my kneejerk reading is that it refers to the areas outside of solar systems, but then I realized that in 1901, it probably actually meant the literal spaces between stars as you stare up at the sky. However, checking the OED's citations shows that it had the sf sense at least as early as 1880, so maybe my first inclination was correct! If so, it was definitely an unexpected simile to encounter.
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LibraryThing member hemlokgang
In many ways I think this is the perfect book. First of all, who can resist Kim, himself? A Sahib street-child turned servant to a holy man and at the same time a player in the international intrigue of India in the 1800s, with a lama, a horse trader, a physician/magician, and an entire British
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regiment as his friends. Politics, spirituality, acceptance, wisdom from all was just a pleasure to read this book!
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LibraryThing member jwhenderson
One of the most beautiful tales of friendship I have ever read, Kim is much more. Rudyard Kipling created in Kim a novel in the mold of the classic heroic journey that has a pedigree reaching back to Gilgamesh and the Odyssey. With Kim, a young white boy, sahib, at it's center and his friend and
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mentor the Lama, we see the world of India in the nineteenth century as it is ruled by Great Britain. Kipling raises questions of identity (Who is Kim?), culture, spirituality and the nature of fate. Most of all he depicts the growth of a young man through his quest to find his destiny and the bond that develops between Kim as 'chela' or disciple and his Lama. The greatness of this novel lies in Kipling's ability to combine all of these themes with a natural style that conveys the richness both of the lives of Kim and his friends and the fecundity of life in India. One of the most enduring images for me was the close tie Kim has with the land itself. This is shown several times throughout the novel culminating in his final renewal when he is stretched out on the earth near the end of the novel. The epic quest is successful as this novel unfolds a positive and uplifting narrative.
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LibraryThing member wyvernfriend
This is a book I read many years ago and enjoyed, and I think being a teenager helped my enjoyment. Re-reading as an adult, and with more knowledge of the world changes my view a bit, though a lot of the issues I had were more to do with the era of the book rather than the actual story itself.

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there are very few female characters of note. Yes it's a time when the British Raj were in charge in India and one of their major issues was the possible incursion of Russia or France (or Russia and France) from Afghanistan. But still this story of an Irish orphan being trained to do work for the powers that be as part of the Great Game played by people in order to manage the country. His ability to be different people helps the situation immensely.

I must say that as a kid I enjoyed the adventure but now I enjoyed the details and having just read the Skull Mantra the difference in acceptance of Tibetan monks and the casual way in which the imperial system is accepted as being for the "betterment" of the "natives" is an interesting look into the past.
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LibraryThing member AriadneAranea
A boyish adventure: Kim, the son of an Irish soldier, is orphaned in India and brought up by an Indian foster mother of dubious moral standing, left only with his father’s army papers (which he cannot read) and an assurance which he cannot understand but takes for a prophecy, relating to the
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return of the regiment and the help it would bring. He is therefore a Sahib, but brought up as a Hindu and well-versed in all the street wisdom of the bazaar. He takes up with a Tibetan lama on pilgrimage and leaves to travel the country. They come across the regiment and Kim is taken up to be educated as a Sahib, finally joining a secret service whose aims he does not understand or particularly care about, interested only in spying as a great Game. Blah blah.

It's well written - just a bit blokey for my tastes.
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LibraryThing member jddunn
An adventurous buddy/road tale set in the teeming infinitude of colonial India. I was worried about it being ruined by Kipling’s colonialist paternalism, but it seems like, while in his head he was an imperialist, his heart was with the colonized. Beautifully and expansively told and described.
LibraryThing member catspec
Kipling is under-appreciated these days. Kim is a wonderful book which I have read a few times now, and had to keep. :) Like Haggard, Kipling wrote about "the Great Game." Spy stuff early on, and overlaid with the gentle story of the Tibetan Monk on his way to his forever home. These old guys from
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the turn of the 20th century could write - many of them wrote so well and always lucidly and with a vocabulary that they used in even the pulp fiction of the day (Example - Sax Rohmer stuff). It is an extraordinary pleasure to read a well written book.
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LibraryThing member bragan
Kipling's classic tale of the orphaned son of an Irish soldier growing up on the streets of Colonial India and discovering his natural talent as a spy.

Between the somewhat old-fashioned language and the many, many unfamiliar cultural references, I fear that parts of this may have gone past me a
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bit, but I enjoyed it a great deal, anyway. There's a wonderfully subtle sense of humor to it, and an equally wonderful sense of the vibrancy and diversity of the Indian landscape and culture. And the sly, savvy Kim is a terrific character, as are many of the people he shares his adventures with.
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LibraryThing member annbury
My first Kipling since "The Jungle Book" so many years ago, and not at all what I was expected. As a child, I adored "The Jungle Book", but as an adult I put Kipling firmly into the imperialist/racist category, and expected his work to be mostly imperialist blather. It's not that at all; what
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really stands out in "Kim", as many other reviewers have noted, is Kipling's passion for India with all its kaleidoscope of peoples, religions, languages, and everything else.

A lot of it, of course, does sound imperialist to a 21rst century ear. "Kim" appeared in 1901, and he doesn't question the right of the "sahibs" to rule India. But in the context of the time, some of his attitudes seem remarkably non-imperialist. Some of the least sympathetic characters in the book are British, including a Church of England minister, who, upon meeting Tibetan holy man "looked at him with the triple-ringed uninterest of the creed that lumps nine-tenths of the world under the title 'heathen' "

Kipling is not "uninterested" in anything about India; he revels in it in what one reviewer termed "Orientalism". That's a fair criticism, but I don't think that it means that one should forego Kipling. I will certainly read more, after having read "Kim".
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LibraryThing member LisaMaria_C
Kipling is a controversial author these days, seen as an unapologetic imperialist booster of the British Empire and even racist. Yet Indian authors such as Arundhati Roy, V.S. Naipaul and Salman Rushdie have found Kipling impressive and even influential. Kipling can be a wonderful storyteller.
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Rushdie has said Kipling's writing has "the power simultaneously to infuriate and to entrance."

I found that the case in both The Jungle Books and now Kim. And yes, you can see a, shall we say, very un-PC sensibility there, but my overall impression was Kipling's great love for India, which he knew intimately:

The diamond-bright dawn woke men and crows and bullocks together. Kim sat up and yawned, shook himself, and thrilled with delight. This was seeing the world in real truth; this was life as he would have it - bustling and shouting, the buckling of belts, and beating of bullocks and creaking of wheels, lighting of fires and cooking of food, and new sights at every turn of the approving eye. The morning mist swept off in a whorl of silver, the parrots shot away to some distant river in shrieking green hosts: all the well-wheels within ear-shot went to work. India was awake, and Kim was in the middle of it.

Kim is an orphan who was born Kimball O'Hara, the son of an Irishman who served as a sergeant in the British Army in India. He grows up in the streets of Lahore in the Punjab, where he is known as "the Little Friend of the World" and more fluent in the languages of India than English. If there's one indelible impression the book makes, it's in how it depicts the richness and diversity of India, with so many different languages, ethnicities and faiths. And in this book at least, the Indians and Asians certainly do not come across as stereotypes and those Europeans who refuse to learn from them are scorned. Kim also is about the "Great Game" of espionage and a coming of age adventure story about an unforgettable character not yet seventeen at the end of the book. I certainly can see traces of Kim in books as diverse as Robert Heinlein's Citizen of the Galaxy and Kaye's The Far Pavilions. This was a completely absorbing read.
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LibraryThing member bookworm12
You know those books that you know from the very first page, you’re going to love it… this wasn’t that. You know those other books that start out slow and it takes you awhile, but soon you find yourself hooked? Nope, this was not one of those either.

In fact, I made it through the entire book
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without every really feeling invested in any way, shape or form. I persevered only because I started it a few months ago and gave it up, then restarted it, convinced I’d get through it. It’s one of Kipling’s most lauded books and it’s on a million must read lists and there’s got to be something else there. But in the end it just didn’t work for me.

A young Irish boy, Kim, is orphaned in India during the 19th century. He becomes a disciple of a Tibetan Lama, Teshoo Lama, and travels with him on his quest. Eventually a British regiment takes him under their wing and enrolls him in an English school. They decide to groom him to become a spy.

I loved some of Kipling’s short stories (The Jungle Book, etc.), but this one left me feeling cold. It’s suppose to be a “spy” novel in some way, but instead of having any solid plot it meanders and muses about life. It felt both boring and tiresome and I couldn't help but wonder why we were suppose to care about what happened to Kim.

I know I should have more to say about this book, but honestly, I was just glad to be done with it. If anyone loved this book I would be thrilled to hear why.
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LibraryThing member rizeandshine
Kim is a tale of spies and espionage, which I normally love, but I found the English vernacular difficult to follow and I think over-the-top, which made it a bit of a chore to read rather than pure enjoyment. The story itself is exciting and I did enjoy Kipling's passion for India, where he was
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born and raised, and its people. In this novel, he truly celebrates the rich diversity, sights, sounds and flavors of the country.
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