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Kim (Classic, 20th-Century, Penguin) Paperback – September 1, 1987

4.0 out of 5 stars 228 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

One of the particular pleasures of reading Kim is the full range of emotion, knowledge, and experience that Rudyard Kipling gives his complex hero. Kim O'Hara, the orphaned son of an Irish soldier stationed in India, is neither innocent nor victimized. Raised by an opium-addicted half-caste woman since his equally dissolute father's death, the boy has grown up in the streets of Lahore:
Though he was burned black as any native; though he spoke the vernacular by preference, and his mother-tongue in a clipped uncertain sing-song; though he consorted on terms of perfect equality with the small boys of the bazar; Kim was white--a poor white of the very poorest.
From his father and the woman who raised him, Kim has come to believe that a great destiny awaits him. The details, however, are a bit fuzzy, consisting as they do of the woman's addled prophecies of "'a great Red Bull on a green field, and the Colonel riding on his tall horse, yes, and'--dropping into English--'nine hundred devils.'"

In the meantime, Kim amuses himself with intrigues, executing "commissions by night on the crowded housetops for sleek and shiny young men of fashion." His peculiar heritage as a white child gone native, combined with his "love of the game for its own sake," makes him uniquely suited for a bigger game. And when, at last, the long-awaited colonel comes along, Kim is recruited as a spy in Britain's struggle to maintain its colonial grip on India. Kipling was, first and foremost, a man of his time; born and raised in India in the 19th century, he was a fervid supporter of the Raj. Nevertheless, his portrait of India and its people is remarkably sympathetic. Yes, there is the stereotypical Westernized Indian Babu Huree Chander with his atrocious English, but there is also Kim's friend and mentor, the Afghani horse trader Mahub Ali, and the gentle Tibetan lama with whom Kim travels along the Grand Trunk Road. The humanity of his characters consistently belies Kipling's private prejudices, and raises Kim above the mere ripping good yarn to the level of a timeless classic. --Alix Wilber --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

From Booklist

Rudyard Kipling’s adventure novel is luminously visualized in this adaptation. The story line remains true to the original and follows Kim as he departs from his boyhood home with a Buddhist lama and embarks on adventures as a boy spy. Kumar’s watercolor scenes and expressions lend authentic views of Kim’s moods as well as his surroundings. However, this is more illustrated classic than graphic novel, as aside from the visual scenery, little is left for the images to convey that isn’t spoken by the text. Accessible and continuing to be a story of interest, this book nonetheless has a place in most collections serving classics. A bit of front matter sets the story’s context against the author’s own life, and a bit of back matter provides interesting details about spy tools of the era. Grades 5-8. --Francisca Goldsmith --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

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Product Details

  • Series: Classic, 20th-Century, Penguin
  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reissue edition (September 1, 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140183523
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140183528
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.7 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (228 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,529,652 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Kim is a book that I had meant to read for nearly 20 years. When I finally got around to it, I first read the Amazon.com reviews and noted they seemed to divide into two camps. The first camp was overwhelmingly favorable; the other was guardedly favorable. The reviews that were guarded said, in the aggregate, that Kim was enjoyable for various reasons, but that it bore the baggage of racism and imperialism. For these and other reasons, Kim must be seen for what it really was. And there were some reviews were quite critical -- describing Kim as a plotless, meandering exercise in boredom.
The Kim that I read had a plot. A common plot. Those who have read Huckleberry Finn would recognize it. It is a coming of age novel placed about 130 years ago.
Imperialism and racism. Well, yes -- if you are viewing Kim from the viewpoint of a revisionist political commentator. Kim's India has a white ruling class and a darker skinned ruled class. This social structure is strikingly similar to the historical relationship between the British and the Indians during the Raj. And Kim is caught up in the Great Game, much like the historical Great Game. The British did want to continue to hold India from enemies foreign and domestic and Kim reflects that historical point of view. It was, after all, written during the Raj and within chronological shouting distance of the Game.
Racism. Yes. British characters, often presented in most unsympathetic ways, do have a racial stereotype of the Indians. And, the Indians have a racial stereotype of the sahibs. But the Indians are not what they want to seem to the British -- they are much, much deeper. Babu is a Babu -- if his mask is all the reader sees. Strikingly like real life.
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Format: Paperback
'Kim' is a work that could receive very different reviews depending on the biases of the reviewer.

Any professor from the English department of my alma mater (Rutgers) would insist that 'Kim' should never under any circumstances receive any praise as it is racist, glorifies imperialism, was writen by a dead white male, and lacks a political philosophy acceptable to a modern progressive liberal. Well, I suppose that it lacks any real political philosophy (except some very general complimentary comments about democracy) and Rudyard Kipling is dead, white and male, but the first two comments are completely wrong and and this sort of review is the voice of ignorance.

A staunch traditionalist, conservative would insist that it is a canonical work that should be read by every school child as a superior example of English literature and the epitomy of the written Enlish language. This is equally ill-informed and ill-considered.

'Kim' is a wonderful story of an orphan in India (the part that is now Pakistan; Abid-please consider it a gesture of respect that I mention the change in geography) in the late 1800s. Kim is the son of an Irish soldier raised by locals, familiar with the customs and languages of the Hindus and Muslims of the area who gets recruited by the British to spy for them. Kim acts as a guide for a Tibetan Buddhist priest who is on a quest in India, broadening his knowledge of the cultures of his world and giving him an excuse to travel even further. He comes upon his father's regiment, and the officers of the regiment arrange for Kim to attend a 'proper' British school.
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Format: Paperback
Kim is probably one of the best books ever written on India and certainly within the league of E.M.Forster and Paul Scott.
This little treasure describes India with a love and power of observation that is absolutely captivating and charming at the same time.
Kim is a rogue like Huck Finn and Oliver Twist. He is the man for all opportunities and is called the "Friend of all Mankind". He is neither Hindu nor Muslim, he is neither Buddhist nor Christian. Given his background as the orphan son of a Irish military man and a local girl he is a little bit of everything.
In Kim Kipling personifies all the good of Inida while playing down the contrasts, in particular the religious one; he shows us what India would have been like in an ideal situation of mutual tolerance.
Apart from these philosophical considerations, Kim is simply a very well written book. Every passage betrays Kiplings background as a poet and sometimes passages really need to be reread for their beauty. His observations are striking and one realises from time to time that it is not the writers imagination about a period long gone; he was actually part of that period.
One thing Kim is not: a childrens book. Like Siddharta ,a child may be the main character, but the book is far to philosophical and aimed observing intricate human behaviour to be of much interest to children. I would even maintain that Kim should not be the first book to read about India.
However, one of the best reads I had in a long time.
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