Friday, January 30, 2009

14/81 - Life's Handicap by Rudyard Kipling

Life's Handicap by Rudyard Kipling, short story category

This book is a collection of short stories written by Rudyard Kipling. They include one story written when he was only 19, and vary in size from 2 1/2 pages to much longer stories.

All of the stories are set in colonial India, and share some basic themes: the conflict between the races, the doubt over the value of civilization, the frustration over fighting a losing battle, and yet the joy in comradeship, even if the war is a pointless one.

I didn't read the preface until I was at least halfway through the book, and then I spotted the warning that the best stories are placed at the beginning of the book. As I read more, I had to agree with that. The later stories are too brief to be more than mildly interesting and the ideas are not solid enough to be worth a longer story.

I enjoyed this book more than I expected at first. I had a couple of problems. One is that the book makes extensive use of dialect, which can be hard to read. And this edition also included endnotes for each story, which made it feel more like I was reading a textbook and less like I was reading a story.

But I did enjoy some of the stories very much. My favorite ones in this collection were 'The Man Who Was' and 'Without Benefit of Clergy'.

If you are a fan of Kipling, or if you want to read more about colonial India and the British Empire, I really recommend this collection.

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