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Indian Summer: The Secret History of the End of an Empire
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Indian Summer: The Secret History of the End of an Empire

3.95 of 5 stars 3.95  ·  rating details  ·  1,624 ratings  ·  207 reviews
This is a re-creation of one of the key moments of 20th century history: the partition and independence of India, and the final days of the Raj.
Paperback, 464 pages
Published 2008 by Pocket (first published July 1st 2007)
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Saurabh Singh It was "Persuading" more than 500 princely states to join either of to be dominions and most of them being geographically in and around India rather…moreIt was "Persuading" more than 500 princely states to join either of to be dominions and most of them being geographically in and around India rather than to be Pakistan, joined India thus giving India the map it has today. As has been pointed by Alex that Mountbatten being representative of British empire -the vanguard of princely states for over a century- and himself being a Royalty, his cajoling carried greater weight coupled with nuanced to open warning of chaos from Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.

It is even said that Indian national congress accepted June 3 partition plan on tacit understanding that Mountbatten, using his position, will talk sense into princes mind that their independent existence, post withdrawal of British paramountcy, was politically and economically unfeasible and this he (Louis Mountbatten) did most effectively e.g. his July 25 1947 speech to the chamber of princes was tour de force (as pointed by Ramchandra Guha in his "India after Gandhi")(less)
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Riku Sayuj

Tunzelmann has concocted a very readable and balanced history of the last days of Empire. Tunzelmann avoids demonizing any sect, individual or nation and shows the circuitous routes through which every decision was squeezed out, many tragedies averted and many more inadvertently precipitated.

He shows the human frailties and noble aspirations of all of the major participants and does not shirk away from exploring the controversial bullheadedness of Gandhi or from going into great detail about th
Concerning spoilers: this is a history book. I DO talk about India's history. If you consider that a spoiler, read no more. For me, reading the facts several times only helps to cement them into my head.

I loved this book from beginning to end. If you want a fiction that is light, do not read it. If you want to really understand the people that pulled off India's independence, then I highly recommend it. It is non-fiction, but of the best kind! You learn about the private and public lives of Nehr
God six months later and I finish the book. Serves me right to read about vicious civil wars. It was wonderful, depressing and tried to end on an optimistic yet trying to be a little realistic note. I read this on a recommendation by the New Yorker, who seemed to enjoy it except the reviewer was irritated by the author's focus on the open marriage of the last viceroy of India. The reviewer implied it was gossipy. Perhaps because I am a gossip by nature, I enjoyed that aspect, though I saw the re ...more
The first thing that comes to my mind after reading Indian Summer by Alex Von Tunzelmann is that why does it take a westerner to write such an intriguing story about Indian History. The reason is beyond my comprehension till date as common sense suggests the otherwise. The Indians must be having greater access to archives, letters of iconic personalities and first hand interviews of the survivers. This I am saying as I have also read Indira by Katherine Frank and found it excellent.
The Indian S
INDIAN SUMMER: The Secret History of the End of an Empire.(2007). Alex Von Tunzelmann. **.
This was a disappointing book, though maybe my expectations were too high. Instead of a relatively straight-forward exposition of the happenings in India and England during the times of the Raj and after Independence, the author, in focusing on many of the key players in the events of the times, chooses, instead, to focus on their sex lives and the clothes in their closets. Lord Montbatten was once told th
Jan 25, 2010 Gaurav rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anybody interested in modern Indian history
A well-written overview of the political and personal forces that lead to independence, partition and war between Pakistan and India, focusing particularly on the relationship between Jawaharlal Nehru and Edwina Mountbatten.

What particularly pleased me about this book was its value use as an 'addendum' to Freedom at Midnight. "Freedom" follows Mohandas Gandhi and Louis Mountbatten through 1947-48; Tunzelmann focuses instead on Nehru, Edwina Mountbatten, and (to a far lesser degree) Jinnah. Taken

Inglorious Exit

"Poor, accident-prone Dickie [Mountbatten], long known in the Admiralty as the ‘Master of Disaster,’ had been given more power over 400 million subjects of the British king-emperor than any preceding viceroy. The task of reconciling the Indian politicians, reestablishing public order, and finding a formula for an independent India was awesome, and quite beyond Mountbatten’s experience. India would have been within its rights to panic, but from the British government’s point of vie

A diligent and well structured history, maybe nearer to five stars. The interwoven threads of Nehru and the Mountbattens make for an interesting inner narrative against the overlay of the enormously larger story of the independence & partition of India.

Certain emotional moments and images-- while not at all stooping to 're-creation' tactics-- remain stubbornly, hauntingly, with the reader, long after the book has been shelved.
Hisham Hafiz
I thought I knew little about the Indian sub-continent from watching documentaries, reading about Gandhi and watching the famous movie. After reading this book, I realized I had overestimated my knowledge. The history of British colonization of India and partition is much more complex than I originally though. However, this is a warm and enjoyable read. Unlike a stereotypical history book, which may be heavy, dry or detached to assert objectivity, this one is dynamic and engaging. It is also hum ...more
Meticulously researched, compellingly written, and history brilliantly well told. This book brought the history of the Indian independence movement to life for me like nothing else has done. Von Tunzelmann's work manages to be both readable and interesting as she brings each of the central characters of the time to life. While there are certainly some very strong biases in this book (e.g. portrayal of Mountbatten vs that of Gandhi) compared to other scholarly writing on this topic, those biases ...more
Sarath Ramakrishnan
“IN THE BEGINNING, THERE WERE TWO NATIONS. ONE WAS A vast, mighty and magnificent empire, brilliantly organized and culturally unified, which dominated a massive swath of the earth. The other was an undeveloped, semi-feudal realm, riven by religious factionalism and barely able to feed its illiterate, diseased and stinking masses. The first nation was India. The second was England.”

Thus begins Alex Von Tunzelmann’s amusing work Indian Summer: The Secret History of the End of an Empire , chronic
A surprisingly well written book that chronicles the lives of a few players who were instrumental in the independence of India and Pakistan.

It seems as if the material for the book was mainly derived from the tons of letter written by Lord and Lady Mountbatten and Jawaharlal Nehru. As such, it has a typical British empire view on the subcontinent. This is not bad because it exposes all the leaders to their human flaws.

It goes in length on the love affair of Edwina with Nehru, the hobbies of Di
Sue Davis
The author writes from a very different perspective than Collins and LaPierre. Here we learn that Mountbatten was such a disaster in the Royal Navy that people died because of his mistakes, that no one took his strategic plans seriously, and that Edwina was only intermittently happy with him and then perhaps only as a result of his ability to allow her to be free to work on her own and to be with other men. The other aspect of the different perspective of Tunzelmann is her inclusion of the contr ...more
The charm of this book is its readability. The author begins with metaphoric images of a backwater England and a rich India... in 1600. What follows is a brief but engrossing anecdotal background to bring the reader up to the dramatic events of the summer of 1947.

The book focuses on the people who brought forth the new India, and helps you to know who they were and to care about them. For instance, the last Viceroy could have been described through a recitation of his long and prestigious lineag
Nicholas Whyte

A very readable account of the British withdrawal from India, largely from the point of view of Dickie and Edwina Mountbatten, whose papers are used extensively, though with some effort also made to include the roles of the other key political players. On Lord Mountbatten's responsibility for the horrors of partition, I found it was a useful alternative viewpoint to the hatchet-job by Andrew Roberts which I read several years ago. While I think that von
this book starts off great but quickly degenerates into "Why I hate Dickie Mountbatten" — altho, in fact, the author never explained (i made it halfway) why she DOES hate him. The author (a recent oxford grad, and with her blond hair apparently not an Indian or Pakistani) never comes right out and says "I blame Dickie for the all the things that are wrong with India; and when you think about it, India isn't doing so badly compared to many other nations. The book begins with good history and wond ...more
I began this book with an idealist view of gandhi, based upon ben kingsley's portrayal (magnificent!). I left with a more realistic view of his place in history and more human true self. More importantly I understood the complexity of the India that evolved from pre-British empire to modern times in all its broken parts, including Pakistan. The slaughter, discord, and wars that ensued is a foregone conclusion as a given when the British decisions and omissions are detailed! It is an awakening to ...more
While this book may not be for everyone, I found it interesting to understand the British-Indian relationship, how it came to an end, partition and the raj. Filled with stories of the lives of the people who lived there and their love/hate relationship with the country. A country with great contrasts, different religions, lots of people, India captures the heart of the reader.
Nancy Burns
This book just swept me away to the land of Darjeeling tea, Ghandi en the British elite who ruled the empire in the name of the Queen. Great way to learn more about the Indian continent!

My review is short:

Kumar Anshul
This is the best book on the independence and partition of India and Pakistan, one can lay his hands upon. Full of clandestine anecdotes and witty exchange of dialogues between the architectures of Indian independence (Gandhi, Nehru, Jinnah and the Mountbattens), this book also portrays the much controversial love affair between Pandit Nehru and Edwina Mountbatten in a much clearer light, which is sure to make you appreciate its uniqueness, sublimity and the effect it had on the political fabric ...more
Kierstin Camp-horn
Wonderfully descriptive and very human retelling of a complicated part of Indian history. i'll be moving to New Delhi soon and feel much more knowledgeable about the people and events that led to partition and India's independence.
The book should have been named “The lives and lies of the Mountbattens”.The author seems more fixated on Dickie and Edwina Mountbatten than the political events of the summer of 1947. Like most of the books of this genre, it is slow and dragging in the beginning but suddenly picks up pace during the last chapters. Tunzelmann has put in a great effort to bring out the complexity in the characters of Nehru and Gandhi though I felt Patel and Jinnah’s role was ignored. The book is filled with amusi ...more
Rajiv Chopra
Alex writes well. The style is taut, and the book reads well. At times, it can almost read like a thriller. She has done a good job of writing about the events of the times. It was a very complex period in India's history, one where truths will be very difficult to analyse.

She seems to be clearly fascinated by Nehru and the Mountbatten's. On the other side, she does not seem to be an admirer of Jinnah or Gandhi. This shows. What is missing from the book, is the analysis of how Jinnah went from
Saurabh Turakhia
I read the book- Indian Summer: The Secret History of the End of an Empire, by Alex von Tunzelmann. It is a book with a detailed account on how princely states were unified within India and how division of territories was being done for both India and Pakistan. Many personalities such as Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Patel, Jawaharlal Nehru, Jinnah, Lord Mountbatten, Lady Mountbatten played a role in this process. The book explains how after it was certain that partition was inevitable, the hostility b ...more
This book covers three distinct phases of the Indian independence movements, revolving around 5 central characters - Mahatma Gandhi, Pandit Nehru, Lord Mountbatten, Edwina Mountbatten and Mohd Ali Jinnah.

The first phase covers the birth and upbringing of all the central characters. This part of the book is good on breadth - touching upon key events in personal lives of the main characters. The content is not biographical, but rather anecdotal. To that extent, the relative importance accorded to
Tabitha Beck
This is actually a very well-written book. It is full of information I hadn't found anywhere else.
My only complaint is my normal complaint about history...I want to delve in deeper...I want the innermost thoughts, the secret conversations, the gritty little details that never make it into the books.
This is an excellent history book, an excellent story, but for me it merely skims over the top of events without really hooking in to the visceral appellates.
An excellent book covering a very important era in the History of India.
Umesh Kesavan
A gripping account of the last days of British Raj in India. The book describes how personalities and personal relations had a significant effect on historical processes. That Nehru accepted a compromising Dominion Status on the insistence of Edwina Mountbatten depicts the shockingly intertwined nature of politics and romance back then.
Andrew Fish
After watching Howard Brenton's fantastic Drawing the Line last year, I thought it would be informative to read a book about the partition of India. von Tunzelmann's being one of the more popular on the subject on Amazon, I decided to give it a whirl.

I have to admit I had sinking feelings when I started reading this book. First seeing Jeremy Paxman namechecked in the acknowledgments, then reading the opening chapter's whistlestop tour of the state of India (rich and happy) and Britain (poor and
The book captures the life of 4 main characters / people in the Indian freedom struggle. Louis Mountbatten, Wife Edwina Mountbatten, Jawaharlal Nehru & Mahatma Gandhi. I liked the narrative, built-up of the story and the perspective of the writer on many crucial events of freedom struggle. I may not agree with all the perspectives but certainly it added a new angle to look the same event.

Things I enjoyed about the book will be the gripping narrative, simple & seamless flow and keeping it
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Around the World ...: Chrrissie recommends Indian Summer 1 9 Oct 20, 2011 01:46AM  
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  • The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian
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  • Churchill's Secret War: The British Empire and the Ravaging of India During World War II
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  • Taj Mahal: Passion and Genius at the Heart of the Moghul Empire
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  • India Unbound: The Social and Economic Revolution from Independence to the Global Information Age
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