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When I was cramming to learn as much about one of the earliest cultures in human history and followed the development of sanskrit as a language down the Indus river and the later political division of India and Pakistan for my 2006 Nanowrimo I figured I was pretty much done with what I had learned once I had finished my novel and November ended. Then I started reading Kim and Rudyard Kipling's story made all that late night reading come to life for me. The book does include a map of all the places visited but it was nice not to need it because the story flowed so well that I wouldn't have wanted to disrupt it to follow a map.
Where Mogli, Kipling's jungle savvy boy is an exploration of man's relationship with nature, Kim the street urchin is his vehicle for reexamining the tenuous relationship between Britain and its then colonial subjects. Kim's story brings together a wide array of cultures: British, Tibetan, Muslim and Hindu. Unsure of his own origins at first, Kim picks and chooses the pieces he likes from all these different cultures. As a very clever child, the adults around him take advantage of him for their own cross purposes.
Of all the different relationships in the book it was Kim's role as a chela to the Tibetan lama that interested me the most. It seemed that the countryside was the most open to them when they traveled together and I liked being along for the ride. The next most interesting character is the horse trader Mahbub who used Kim to gather information and pass along secrets encoded in non-sense horse trading information. The most poignant piece should have been Kim's dead soldier father but those details seemed the most forced and unnatural of all the other pieces of the story.
Regardless of the few minor quibbles I have with Kim, I enjoyed the book thoroughly.