Monday, April 14, 2008

Kim

Kim, by Rudyard Kipling
ISBN: 9781593081928
This is a coming-of-age adventure story by the author of The Jungle Books and a host of other light classics. The hero is a mischievous twelve year-old boy of Irish parents, orphaned in India.
For as long as he can remember, Kimball O'Hara (nicknamed Kim) has lived on the streets of Lahore, India. He's a white boy who masquerades as an Indian to live on the streets, preferring it to Lahore's bleak orphanage school.
He's quite a hellraiser, but still quite lovable. Forever in trouble, but quickly forgiven for his hang-dog expression and hard luck story. In 
fact, he's often nicknamed "Little Friend of All the World". He's that kind of kid.
At the novel's beginning, he befriends a wandering Tibetan monk who is searching for a sacred river. Kim soon agrees to become the monk's chela, a sort of assistant for a Buddhist holy man. The two soon depart Lahore, the monk searching for his river and the boy for adventure and a chance to see the world.
Kim is soon recruited by a British operatives to carry secret 
messages to Ambala, a distant town in northern India and a region at war with Russia. His espionage takes him into the Himalayas, and a great spectrum of other exciting settings in this interesting and diverse country.
For a while Kim trains with a peculiar man who practices strange mind control techniques. He teaches Kim to improve his memory by studying sets of objects and memorizing the details about them. This is still done today by some people for fun, and is called Kim's Game.
India is indeed a diverse country. Our young hero comes into contact with white Europeans, Buddhist monks and Indians. Always ambiguous about his own origins, he cleverly sizes his opponents up and behaves 
accordingly. Sometimes he's proper English, but can just as easily vanish into the Asian crowd.
Kipling captures the native culture beautifully, including some lovely Buddhist poetry. In 1907 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.
There's a sensitive coming-of-age theme, for those who enjoy it. Mostly, Kim is an adventure story similar to Treasure Island or The Red Badge of Courage. This often overlooked boyhood classic should start getting the attention it deserves.
If you're not into paying $4.95 for a paper copy, the free e-book is available here.

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