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The Setting Sun: A Memoir of Empire and Family Secrets [Kindle Edition]

Bart Moore-Gilbert
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)

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Book Description

"I've always had difficulty imagining my father as a policeman. He seemed most himself in the informal setting of safari life, clothes disheveled, sometimes not shaving for days. So why did he join the Indian Police, with its rigid hierarchies and complex protocols?"

Setting Sun is the story of the dying days of an empire, combined with gripping family history, in an extraordinary literary voyage across India.

When a letter from an Indian historian arrives out of the blue, informing leading academic Moore Gilbert that his beloved, deceased father, a member of the Indian Police before Independence, partook in the abuse of civilians, Moore Gilbert's world is shaken as his cherished childhood memories are challenged. He sets out in search of the truth—discovering much about the end of empire, the state of India today, and whether his father, as one of the many characters on his quest claims, really was a terrorist.

Crisscrossing western India, and following leads from bustling Mumbai to remote rural scenes, Moore-Gilbert finally pieces together the truth, ultimately discovering that the same story links the past with the present, colonial India with its modern incarnation, terrorism through the ages and father with son.

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* One day, London University English professor Moore-Gilbert is in his office, reading an e-mail asking about a person who might be related to him. In just months, Moore-Gilbert is in India, tracing the past of his father, Bill, a game warden in Africa who died young in a plane crash, a man Moore-Gilbert barely knew but clearly remembers. Once in India, Moore-Gilbert finds clues in tattered reports and interviews with elderly acquaintances of his father that begin to bring to life a person very different from the one he remembers. Born in Tanzania, Moore-Gilbert had an unusual childhood, and his youthful memories are scattered throughout the book, as are almost show-stopping photographs of Moore-Gilbert with Kimwaga, his beloved “minder,” who is holding a hyena cub, and of Bill, his father, wearing a pith helmet and standing just behind a massive, freshly dead tiger. Moore-Gilbert bravely moves forward with his search in India, though what he finds shakes him. Was his father, in India from 1938 to 1947 and a member of the Indian police, a terrorist? Was he a womanizer? Moore-Gilbert, who feels he is becoming a detective like his father once was, states, “I made the decision to find out the truth, however painful or inconvenient it might be.” Touching and evocative and depicting India’s turbulent past and present, this is an enthralling son-and-father memoir. --Eloise Kinney


"Snatches of memoir, travelogue and history add intrigue to this son's search for his father's colonial past." - Guardian "Touching and evocative and depicting India's turbulent past and present, this is an enthralling son-and-father memoir." - Booklist

Product Details

  • File Size: 2774 KB
  • Print Length: 321 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1781682682
  • Publisher: Verso (May 13, 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00GQA26AK
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #211,325 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A stunning journey of discovery and resolution April 14, 2014
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
"The Setting Sun" by Bart Moore-Gilbert opens with a flashback of the author as a young boy at an English prep school, being informed of his father's death in a plane crash in the 1940's. His first instinct is that the news is "an absurd mistake. But he doesn't know how to challenge these adults." Years later, Moore-Gilbert, now a college professor, continues to cherish his memories of his father, Bill, a senior officer of the Indian Police before Independence, as a loving father and admirable man, and his childhood in Africa as happy and adventure-filled, but when he receives an email stating that there are several references to his father in the Mumbai archives, he begins to wonder about the gaps in his father's past. Specifically, after unearthing information that his father may have participated in the brutality of that period, Moore-Gilbert decides to visit India to discover the truth.

At first stymied by the Indian bureaucratic system, Moore-Gilbert eventually begins to have luck tracking down references to his father's time in the police force. In particular, he meets the affable Rajeev, who helps him access the archives (and whose interest may not be what it at first seems). He also strikes gold with a Mr. Modak, who has written several novels and a memoir of his time in the same place where Bill was stationed, although the portrait painted of his father is less than flattering. As Moore-Gilbert assembles more and more of his father's life, he's also visited by youthful memories, some suggesting that his father was more human and more flawed than he previously remembered.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A search in modern day India... May 26, 2014
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
British historian Bart Moore-Gilbert's memoir, "The Setting Sun", certainly isn't for every reader. A certain reader interested in British colonial history - Indian and Tanganyikan especially - will find the book fascinating as Moore-Gilbert looks back on his late father's life and work in Raj India. But the book is as much a personal history as it is a political one. That "personal" one is the relationship between the Moore-Gilbert father and son.

The book goes back and forth between Raj India in the 1930's and 40's when Bill Moore-Gilbert was a member of the Indian Police force, and 1940's and 40's Tanganyika - now Tanzania - where Moore-Gilbert married and raised a family of three sons. Bart Moore-Gilbert was the middle son and was a school child in England when he received word of his father's death in an airplane crash. A third time component is current day India, where Bart Moore-Gilbert goes to investigate charges made against his father during his time of police service. The time changes are not too difficult to deal with, and the son's remembrances of his father in Africa are written in a different font.

In December 2008, just weeks after the November bomb blasts that killed almost 200 people - Bart Moore-Gilbert traveled to Mumbai to begin the search for the truth about his father. Not knowing exactly who to talk to, Moore-Gilbert basically was lucky enough to meet people who knew his father in the western India areas in which Bill Moore-Gilbert served. Traveling by train and car through the area, Bart met up with old people who had either served with his father or had been victims of his father's actions. Bart is able to satisfy himself about his father's service in the last days of the Raj.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Man's Quest for Truth May 4, 2014
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Bart Moore-Gilbert pursues his father's past in this enthralling family history work. The story begins when Bart is at boarding school and is told that his beloved father has passed away. Throughout the years, Bart has idolized his father who was an Indian policeman during the World War II period in India, the last days of the Raj, when India was still under British domination. He has wonderful childhood memories of his father and it is quite a shock when, some forty years later, he receives a letter from an Indian academic who is writing about an uprising during WW II. There is implication in this letter that Bart's father was a member of the police who was involved in committing atrocities against civilians, counterinsurgency events in Pakistan. Was his father really a terrorist? Bart sets off to India to find the truth.

This story is one man's search throughout modern India for the truth, for facts about a father that he really only knows through childhood memories which are interspersed throughout the book. The author writes vividly of the various places he visits and the people he meets. Most of the book is like some sort of detective story. The author find documents related to his father's career and the events that surround the mysteries of his time as a policemen, some have been altered, some changed. Will he finally discover the truth of it all? The book details the last days of the Raj, the morality of terrorism, the fight for India's independence and the role of the British in a fast-changing Indian world. A good read for those who are interested in modern Indian history.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars History with the fascination of fiction; Bart Moore-Gilbert is genuis
Bart Moore-Gilbert has finally published his remarkable memoir, “The Setting Sun.” finally, because it began with an e-mail from a historian asking the author, a professor of... Read more
Published 5 months ago by David Seaman
4.0 out of 5 stars A very personal, interesting memoir of a forgotten time
Bart Moore-Gilbert (no relation), has written a deeply personal, thoughtful, and interesting book about his father's time in India and his search for what he really was. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Bart Motes
5.0 out of 5 stars A Memoir of Empire
The Setting Sun is an intriguing look at the end of the empire. When the author finds out his long deceased father is accused of participating in war crimes during the time in... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Bror Erickson
3.0 out of 5 stars As the sun set on the British Empire...
Memoirs that connect a personal story to the larger world are a tough nut to crack. The writer must combine the immediacy of a personal narrative with the expository needed to... Read more
Published 6 months ago by L. Bravim
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful and endearing search of a father's past
This story written by a scholar of colonial literature of a university in London. His father served in the last decades of the Raj in colonial India. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Wine Teacher
4.0 out of 5 stars The waning days of the British Empire, remembered.
This is a non-fiction book detailing a son's search for his real father; but it is also much much more. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Amateur curmudgeon
4.0 out of 5 stars Of Truths and Memories
Parents seem eternal, sprung to life mature and knowledgeable, and existing as reliably and certainly as cereal for breakfast or Saturday-morning chores. Read more
Published 7 months ago by ck
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, Engaging Memoir
"The Setting Sun: A Memoir of Empire and Family Secrets" by Bart Moore-Gilbert is a beautifully written memoir. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Wilhelmina Zeitgeist
4.0 out of 5 stars Gripping historical non-fiction
An intriguing, exciting story of discovery and redemption of sorts, easy to read, with unexpected surprises and revelations as the author journeys to India to discover what his... Read more
Published 7 months ago by OA Khan
5.0 out of 5 stars So good I missed my train stop twice
This book paints a fascinating portrait of the author's father, a former game warden in Tanganyika whose death when the author was 11 resulted in his exile to Britain. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Herblady22
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