Where Kim’s Concerned, Viewing Beats Reading

Rudyard Kipling’s Kim is a tale of espionage, intrigue, and duplicity that would make a Tom Clancy novel look sissified—assuming anyone in this century is willing to wade through Kipling’s prose, which reeks of his Victorian-era education.

Kim is the orphan son of an Irish soldier stationed in India. Left under the nominal care of an opium addict, by 12, Kim begs, spies, lies, and steals.

Kim becomes the disciple of a Tibetan lama seeking the river that washes away sin. To earn traveling money, Kim delivers a message to Col. Creighton who is in the British Secret Service. The colonel sees Kim could be very useful.

Because of his soldier father, Kim is entitled to British protection and schooling. Kim spends his holidays tramping around India with his lama and getting involved in espionage.

Kim is packed with adventure, but it’s not exciting reading. The characters are not believable, and Kipling’s ponderous prose sometimes makes it hard even to tell which character is speaking. The stylistic problems are compounded by Kipling’s use of Indian and British idioms and proverbs translated into stuffy 19th century English.

In 1950, Kipling’s 1927 novel was made into a movie starring Errol Flynn. A  British television version 1984 stars Peter O’Toole. Either film version is more entertaining than Kipling’s novel.

by Rudyard Kipling
Project Gutenberg Ebook #2226


Why Barbara Worth will be replaced by Kim today

This slot should be occupied by a review of the #2 bestseller for 1912, The Winning of Barbara Worth. However, since Harold Bell Wright’s smashing novel about how engineers won the West was on the bestseller list two years running.  I wrote a review of the novel on the 100th anniversary of its appearance.

In place of a review of a vintage bestseller, I’ll be posting a review of a vintage novel that’s attained almost the status of a classic: Rudyard Kipling’s Kim. Kim is the novel most often associated with Kipling’s name It was named one of the  100 best English-language novels of the 20th century by The Modern Library in 1998.

Kipling originally brought the novel out in seriel form in two magazines. Perhaps that explains why Kim didn’t set bestseller records in book form.

Read my take on the novel here within the hour.

Linda Gorton Aragoni