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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  ·  Rating Details ·  2,030 Ratings  ·  254 Reviews
An extraordinary story of romance, history, and divided loyalties -- set against the backdrop of one of the most dramatic events of the twentieth century

The stroke of midnight on August 15, 1947, liberated 400 million people from the British Empire. With the loss of India, its greatest colony, Britain ceased to be a superpower, and its king ceased to sign himself Rex Imper
Paperback, 512 pages
Published September 30th 2008 by Picador (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
My opinion coming into this book was that had Edwina Mountbatten established a ménage a quatre including Jinnah instead of simply a trois excluding him then the business of partition at the end of the British Raj might have been entirely avoided. In part this was confirmed by reading this book, leaving me to imagine that I had formed my view after reading a review of von Tunzelmann's account in the first place.

The young noblewoman, von Tunzelmann, was known to me from her occasional column of re
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
Jun 09, 2008 Janice rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Jul 10, 2012 Tony rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
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
An interesting and detailed historical account of the end of the British Empire in India (which included West Pakistan and East Pakistan or Bangladesh as we know it today) and the bloodbath that heralded Pakistan and India's independence in 1947. Louis "Dickie" Mountbatten and his wife Edwina's lives were intrinsically intertwined with the political upheaval. As Viceroy of India and then Governor General, Dickie worked front and center on behalf of the British government - as negotiator, facilit ...more
Jan 12, 2013 Abhinav rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
This is not just another history book, it is a masterpiece. A well researched and documented volume that tells the story of the last days of an empire hell bent on saving its face and hoping for a graceful exit.

The larger part of the book is taken up by the life and actions of the last Viceroy, Lord Mountbatten, a man with king-making as his favorite sport. It would be spot on to call him, the protagonist of this story.

The book is filled with promising characters and gives a clear picture of the
Jan 25, 2010 Gaurav rated it really liked it  ·  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
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

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

Dr. Ansh
Jan 14, 2015 Dr. Ansh rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 27, 2011 J. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 07, 2016 Angela rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Holy shit - magisterial. I put this alongside The Hindus and The Last Mughal as being a gigantic epic about the subcontinent; an epic whose scope is so mind-blowingly vast that you spend most of its many pages thinking, "Holy shit. And this is REAL? These people lived these lives?!"

I admit I picked it up for a more tawdry reason: to learn more about the alleged affair between Lady Mountbatten and Nehru.

I spent the first third of the book going, "Yeah, yeah, I get it - I know this history stuff!
May 15, 2016 Neha rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I drifted into a sweet nap immediately after I finished this book, and I strongly believe that sums up just how the experience of reading Indian Summer has been for me.

Like I said earlier, this book has exhausted me. There is an insane volume of intense details about events, policies, decisions, and people in its 380-odd pages of text. In some places, the book seems bland and dense in its writing.

But boy, I loved reading this book.

History is hard to judge by any yardstick; more so for me, an
Vikas Lather
Aug 21, 2014 Vikas Lather rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The book has, arguably,the most arresting opening despite being a non fiction (only exception- Orwell's 1984, David Copperfield and Moby Dick)

Alex begins the story of British Raj with, "In the beginning, there were two nations. One was a vast, mighty and magnificent empire, brilliantly organized and culturally unified, which dominated a massive sathe of the earth. The other was an underdeveloped, semi-fedual realm, riven by religious factionalism and barely able to feed its illiterate, diseased
May 09, 2014 Neil rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 19, 2011 Bala rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 11, 2011 Sue Davis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: india, colonialism
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
Mar 03, 2013 Bibliophile rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A light and entertaining account of the end of British rule in India and the charismatic individuals behind it. Well, charismatic is one word for it. The main players are all larger than life: courageous, cruel, progressive and somewhat bonkers all at once. There is Gandhi, who for all his high-minded ideals was a bit of an asshole (criticizing Jews in Nazi Germany for not willingly surrendering is taking the whole creed of non-violence too far, no?). You have the horrifyingly incompetent Dickie ...more
May 26, 2013 Louise rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: india
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
Feb 12, 2008 Cynthia rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: couldn-t-finish
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
Nov 02, 2007 Christina rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 25, 2015 Trudy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 11, 2014 Nancy Burns rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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:

Subhashish Sarkar
Oct 16, 2016 Subhashish Sarkar rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I am a history buff and considering the subject of the book, naturally, I had some expectations. However, I was very disappointed not just by how the subject was treated but also by how ill researched the author is about the subject.
I guess it takes some time to understand for a new author that writing on history is a delicate matter. You have to be aware when you are thrusting your biased opinions about events and people. You cannot have people painted in black and white.

One has to deliver hi
Cheryl S.
It's a bit of a slog to get through this book and for that reason 3 stars instead of 4. However, there's fascinating information and well worth the read.
Kierstin Van 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.
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  • India: A History
  • The Mughal Throne
  • Churchill's Secret War: The British Empire and the Ravaging of India During World War II
  • The Last Mughal: The Fall of a Dynasty: Delhi, 1857
  • Shameful Flight: The Last Years of the British Empire in India
  • India: From Midnight to the Millennium and Beyond
  • Jinnah: India-Partition-Independence
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  • Indira: The Life of Indira Nehru Gandhi
  • Empires of the Indus: The Story of a River
  • Taj Mahal: Passion and Genius at the Heart of the Moghul Empire
  • Women of the Raj
  • The Wonder That Was India: A Survey of the History and Culture of the Indian Sub-Continent before the coming of the Muslims
  • The Elephant Paradigm: India Wrestles With Change
  • Freedom at Midnight

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