Details: Originally published 1901; Pub Penguin Popular Classics 1994; ISBN 0-14-062049-4; Gutenberg text
Verdict: Kim is just as delightful as I remembered it!
Reasons for reading it: rysmiel reviewed it and this reminded me that it used to be one of my favourite books when I was a kid and that I hadn't read it for ages.
How it came into my hands: Borrowed Screwy's copy.
Well, it turned out that my love for Kim was not just nostalgia. It's still wonderful. I realized I'd almost entirely forgotten the plot, and remembered only the marvellous characters and atmosphere. Which might make Kim sound dull, but it isn't at all, it's incredibly pacy and exciting and I really was having a hard time tearing myself away from it, even when I was reading it at Hengrave and there were lots of other unmissably fun things going on.
Kim is one of the best characters in all of literature. He's both intelligent and smart, but also quite innocent in some ways, and it's completely plausible the way all the charcters in the book love him so much. I adore the way he handles adults, using all the psychological tricks that leora has been describing recently, but just because they come naturally to him from his observation of human nature. I think one of the things I noticed rereading this as an adult, which I hadn't seen before, was the way that the reader has a much more complete understanding of the way the world works than Kim does. His point of view is conveyed very precisely, and he's fantastically intelligent, of course, but his understanding is the limited understanding of a child.
The background of all kinds of different aspects of late 19th century Indian society, as seen through Kim's eyes, is also wonderful. As usual, I have no idea whether it's accurate, but it's so vivid and detailed and described in such an atmospheric way that I really don't care! The landscape as well as the people are so beautifully done. And the characters who actually have roles in the story as opposed to forming part of this amazingly colourful background are all done with that peculiarly Kipling touch, really memorable people depicted with just a few details. For example, I'd remembered the Healer of Pearls as being a major character, and actually it turns out that he's really only around for one chapter.
Anyone who hasn't read Kim (which I would think is lots of people, as Kipling's really not as popular as he deserves), really ought to. And if they have any influence over any children, they should get them to read it too, because if a whole generation of kids grow up thinking Harry Potter is the pinnacle of children's literature, the world will be a very sad place in a few years' time.