Kim, by Nobel Prize-winning author Rudyard Kipling, unfolds against the backdrop of The Great Game, the political conflict between Russia and Britain in Central Asia. It is set after the Second Afghan War which ended in 1881, but before the Third, in the period 1893 to 1898.
The novel gives a detailed portrait of the people, culture, and varied religions of India. "The book presents a vivid picture of India, its teeming populations, religions, and superstitions, and the life of the bazaars and the road."
Kim (Kimball O'Hara) is the orphaned son of an Irish soldier and a poor Irish mother who have both died in poverty. Living a vagabond existence in India under British rule in the late 19th century, Kim earns his living by begging and running small errands on the streets of Lahore. Kim is so immersed in the local culture, few realise he is a white child, though he carries a packet of documents from his father entrusted to him by an Indian woman who cared for him.
Kim befriends an aged Tibetan Lama who is on a quest to free himself from the Wheel of Things by finding the legendary River of the Arrow. Kim becomes his chela, or disciple, and accompanies him on his journey. On the way, Kim incidentally learns about parts of the Great Game and is recruited to carry a message to the head of British intelligence in Umballa. Kim's trip with the lama along the Grand Trunk Road is the first great adventure in the novel.
Considered by many to be Kipling's masterpiece, opinion appears varied about its consideration as children's literature or not. Roger Sale, in his history of children's literature, concludes "Kim is the apotheosis of the Victorian cult of childhood, but it shines now as bright as ever, long after the [British] Empire's collapse..."
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About the Author
Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) was one of the most popular writers in the United Kingdom in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. His fiction works include The Jungle Book — a classic of children’s literature — and the rousing adventure novel Kim, as well as books of poems, short stories, and essays. In 1907, at the age of 42, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.