Chrissie's Reviews > Indian Summer: The Secret History of the End of an Empire

Indian Summer by Alex von Tunzelmann
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Oct 19, 11

bookshelves: great-britain, history, india, bangladesh, bio, text-checked, pakistan, favorites
Read from June 29 to July 05, 2010

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 Nehru, Jinnah, Mahatma Gandhi, Louis(Dickie) and Edwina Mountbatten. The love affair between Edwina and Nehru and between Edwina and her husband Dickie are both amazing. Yes, both men truely loved her. She loved them both too! What the Mountbatten's pulled off is fascinating. You learn so much about Kashmir. Kashmir years before the partition is juxtaposed with the situation in Kashmir following partition, making the difference so alarmingly horrible. You learn a bit about the Indira Gandhi's corrupt and undemocratic leadership and the formation of Bangladesh in 1971. What is so wonderful is that although everything is very correct and factual with a million reference notes, the people come alive. It's the little tidbits that make the difference. And yes, you learn alot about the British royal family. Every page was interesting. Some bits were difficult for me simply b/c I had so much to learn. Don't shy away from the book if you know very little. You absorb what you can. The next book will teach you more, but this is a fabulous place for anybody to start. It is funny too. What some of the guys and gals do and say are priceless. Did you know that Mounbatten was killed by the IRA?! I didn't.

Through page 235: This remains totally fascinating! If you want to understand why Kashmir is the big mess it is today, read this book. It is really amazing what Mountbatten accomplished. Maybe if he had taken a little more time there would have been less turmoil? Who knows! The photos are really fun. The pictures of my Mom and Dad fit exactly into this time period. Same clothes, same hair styles, same hats!

Through page 100: I certainly did not know that Indira Gandhi was NOT the daughter of Mohandas Gandhi(more commonly called Mahatma Gandhi). She was in fact the daughter of Jawaharlal Nehru. Indira married Feroze Gandhy, who in the 30s changed the spelling of his last name from Gandhy to Gandhi. Here again the personal relationships are peculiar. Feroze originally was attracted to Indira's mother, but she died in 1936. Then it was her daughter that caught his eye! The name change turned out to be quite a boon to his wife's future career! The more you read history, the more you become aware that changing your name was the thing to do at the beginning of the 20th Century!

I also want to mention that the book provides helpful maps and facts are comprehensively noted with references to the sources.

Through page 93: Another two prime characters behind Indian independence and the formation of Pakistan and Bangladesh are both Winston Churchill and Ali Jinnah, who came to represent the Muslims in India. This man was the leading figure in the formation of Pakistan and became her first Governor-General in 1947. Churchill is only discussed in relation to his role in relation to India. He really hated the Indians and their religion and was vehmently against Indian self-rule. As a good excuse he stated that the opposing religious and caste group would tear each other apart if given self-rule. There is some truth to this if you obseve what later happened.... The funny thing is that Gandhi, in his demand for spotless moral perfection, was also in fact an obstacle to Indian self-rule. There IS comprehensive information about many aspects of Jinnah's life. The important Indian personalities were so often educated in Britain. Although Jinnah was in fact educated at a madrassa in Karachi, he too functioned within the British norms. British high society is so much a part of the scene in which they all moved, the standard against which people were judged. Personally, I find the rampant infidelity of all the men and women quite astounding. I do not like this posh British style of behavior. It drives me nuts...... but this is not a fairy tale, and this IS what happened. I find that so many of the characters are behaving so badly, it makes me disgusted.

Through page 57: This book provides in-depth but easily readable text concerning India's independence and the formation of Pakistan and Bangladesh. The focus is on the key players who made independence a reality - beginning with Mohandas Gandhi, then Jawaharlal Nehru, Louis Mountbatten and Prince Edward (David), Prince of Wales. The depiction of these characters, from their youth, is comprehensive. I particularly enjoyed learning more about Gandhi. You learn how his beliefs in passive resistance and non-violence developed. You learn how as a teenager he rebelled - smoking, stealing, eating meat. Then he marries and forms his own family. You lean how it was for his family to live with highly revered person. Life was not rosy for them! He was greatly influenced by his wife. He in fact attributes his belief in non-violence to her. And you learn of his strong support for the British.

All the characters mentioned above interact with each other. Their actions came to shape history. The discussion of the royal family had me a bit confused, but how Mountbatten came to be involved with David is interesting. Mountbatten was the great grandchild of Queen Victoria. Tsar Nicholas II, soon to abdicate, was his brother-in-law. All the family connections form an amazing knot of threads. Honestly, I am a little worried I will not be able to keep everything straight...... It is complicated. Nehru's youth is also comprehensively covered. Of course, he will become the first prime Minister of India and have an affair with Mountbatten's wife Edwina, but I haven't come that far. We are still in the formative years. To understand how India's independence was achieved, to understand how Pakistan and Bangladesh came into being, you have to understand the lives of the people who brought it about.
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Comments (showing 1-12 of 12) (12 new)

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message 1: by Erma (new) - added it

Erma Odrach Great and thorough review! Already have it on my TBR. The personal stuff is intriguing too. PS: Is that your black dog in photo? Very good-looking. I have a housefull of animals - I foster and have some of my own.


message 2: by Chrissie (last edited Jul 04, 2010 07:24AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Chrissie I love the book. What makes it different from "history books", is that it thoroughly explains not only the public but also the private lives of the main actors behind the formation of India and Pakistan(East and West). I don't know yet if it discusses how East Pakistan split from West Pakistan.....

Yes, that is Oscar in my avatar. It meakes me really happy that you could see that it was him and me. For my eyesight it is too teeny to see. I thought I had to change it again, and I hate doing computer stuff like that. Oscar is now 14 months old. He has been one handful. He is a curly coated retriever. I got him after Skye died last year, also a curly. I am totally stuck on this breed. I hope you go and check my profile - there yo will see how Oscar has grone from a teeny little puppy to a very big dog that I love to pieces. Ohhhh, I am so happy you could see Oscar!!!! there is also a picture of Skye. Yeah I love them both and all the other dogs before them too.

So what pets do you have? I really want to know!!!! I love lope eared rabbits too, but have none right now. No now just one dog, but he is defintiely enough! I didn't realize you were into animals. You must readWesley the Owl: The Remarkable Love Story of an Owl and His Girl. It is exceptionaly good.


message 3: by Erma (last edited Jul 04, 2010 07:56AM) (new) - added it

Erma Odrach Checked out your profile with dogs - they're beautiful looking animals. Never heard of the breed and actually never saw that type of dog, and I spend a LOT of time at the dog park. Oscar is so cute as a puppy.

I have 2 cats and a dog (Tippy)(adopted her at 10 yrs, a little mutt, has psychological problems but is better, still bites, and very strange but cute.) Also have 3 foster cats and two foster dogs (sometimes more), so that makes a lot of animals in our house. One dog (Penny) was rescued with arthritis, husky/sheppard, she's very sweet and will stay with me forever because she's not adoptable, but we love her. I volunteer for a rescue charity, and some of the stories are very sad. Am just relieved no one in our family has pet allergies. What would I do?!

Yes, I like the personal interwoven with history. Makes it all the more real. Wesley the Owl, will give it a try.


Chrissie I should have known you were a pet person!!! That is a compliment. Wow, you have alot! Three dogs and five cats. Pets that are mistreated can be just WONDERFUL pets. They need to have someone care. Animal problems are usually people problems, not the other way around! When I was much younger I worked at my father's company. We all had dogs, and we all brought them to work. So we had to hire a secretary and when I interviewed her she said she didn't like dogs. I said, "Well, I don't think you would fit here!" We ended the interview immediately. And then once another secretary, who had her dog Mindy, answered the phone and the dog was breathing in the receiver - they guy asked what the hell was going on over there..... What a place, but it was a family company so alot was allowed. :0) I adore animals. So much better than people. Animals you can trust and rely on. You get back whatever you give.

Supposedly samojeds don't make people allergic, but I don't know if it is true! My son has one, he told me.

I generally don't read animal stories, but the owl one is extremely good and also Merle's Door: Lessons from a Freethinking Dog, although I certainly don't agree with everything the author did!


message 5: by Erma (new) - added it

Erma Odrach I'm with you, I adore animals. Dogs who go to work, I love it! I have animals that come and go, and such personalities! The cats and dogs - they all get along somehow (they have no choice). Cats mostly sleep.

You got me putting the 2 animal books on my TBR. I too don't aften read animal books (picture books excluded) but will check them out.


Chrissie I have written reviews for both Wesley the Owl: The Remarkable Love Story of an Owl and His Girl and Merle's Door: Lessons from a Freethinking Dog. Lope-eared rabbits are very affectionate, but when my Tizzy got sick and died I said I would never get another b/c vets know much less about curing their diseases. She use to wear socks with ribber on the bottom b/c our wooden floors were too hard for her feet.

I have 30 pages left. I have to get back to my book.


message 7: by Erma (new) - added it

Erma Odrach Thanks.


message 8: by Maude (new) - added it

Maude Chrissie - NOW is the time to get The Jewel in the Crown from the BBC - the DVD's - because it will bring to life the people and changes that you have just read about. I also highly recommend the books, which cover what you read but in a different way that will just add to your knowledge. I am definitely going to get Inidan Summer, too. I am also going to get Wesley the Owl and Merle's Door: I wish I could have known Tizzy - what a sweet and cuddly rabbit with her little socks. Oh, how hard it is when they leave us!


Jennifer (JC-S) A grand review, Chrissie! I'll add this one to my reading list.


Chrissie Maude I am so tempted to buy The Jewel in the Crown. Do you realize I have over 100 books that I have bought and not yet read from Book Depository!!!!! I am not a TV/video person. I kind of like drawing the pictures myself! Burnt Shadows, which I am reading now is also about the time of the partition. I appreciate it b/c I just finished Indian summer. It begins in Nagasaki, but then goes on to Delhi and Pakistan. It shows how you would emotionally feel living through these experiences. I find it very moving. Personal relationships are well portrayed. The writing is sometimes very beautiful and thought provoking. I have only read about 100 pages.

Tizzy, god she was wonderful. A mini lope eared rabit with gray brown soft hair. The memories always remain, nobody can take them from you.

Jennifer, I am glad you liked the review. I am just saying how the book hit me. Informative and engaging. You will think these people are funny and amazing and each so special.


message 11: by Lance (new)

Lance Greenfield Sounds interesting, if a little heavy.

Being British and having served in both the Royal Navy and the Army, I believe that I know quite a lot about the British cololonila history and how my ancestors have managed to screw up half the planet. Mind you, in recent years, the USA have done their best to do worse!

Yes. I did know about the death of Mountbatten. He was a wonderful man. I was based in Kenya at the time (military survey) and remember the news coming though almost in parallel with the other traedy of the time in UK: the Fastnet Boat Race disaster in 1979.

If you want a slightly lighter, but more niche look, at India during the nineteenth century, pick up The Great Arc by John Keay.


Chrissie Given your experiences, I bet you would enjoy the book, Lance. It is not hard to read. Honestly. Some biographers have a light touch!. I am on the way to check out the "Great Arc". Thanks for the tip! It is so nice you liked my review and bothered to tell me and comment here. Thank you :0)


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