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I recently had the pleasure of re-reading "Kim", having just visited Kipling's splendid mansion in East Sussex. It must be something like 40 years or more since I read it last - and it was still thrilling.
I came across this book which purports to research the background to the places and characters of Kim - starting with the great cannon "Zam Zammah". It is mostly an account of the author's journey, following the path taken by Kin and his lama as they travel along the Great Trunk Road in search of mythical river (and secretly participate in the Great Game.
There are lots of interesting anecdotes, and occasional discoveries - and much guesswork. I really enjoyed the book, although it didn't discover as much as I had hoped.
Since I learned to read (now 76) I have enjoyed reading Kipling. This book is well written, well researched and well proof-read. Peter Hopkirk knows and loves his subject. I shall reread Kim with increased understanding and renewed pleasure.
Something of a disappointment, unfortunately. It contains a lot of useful background material and is great for learning the political context of the story and the context of Kipling's own life. I'm giving it four stars (60-80%) because it's well-researched and well-written and the material is generally interesting. But there's too much of the author talking about himself and his own activities. Worst of all, there's not a single map showing any part of Kim's travels! He seems to assume that you know where things are despite the fact that many of the names have changed. He also dwells rather longer on the horrors of Partition than is necessary considering that it took place long after the events of Kim and long before the present day.
A good book to have if you are a Kim fan, but definitely not the only one you need.
Only three stars as I feel that the author relies on quoting Kipling overmuch. The tale lacks meat. Mahub Ali might well have said. The book is light on details. For all of us who read ,and re read Kim it is to my mind a trifle lightweight.
This book will be appreciated by anybody reading 'Kim'.
Peter Hopkirk's authority on all matters to do with the Great Game is well known, and this very readable book is an excellent supplement to the footnotes and references that most modern editions of Kim require and sheds additional light on many aspects of Kipling's classic.