Selected for January Book of the Month, this will have that head start over the hurdle of some of the difficulties. View 2 comments. Jan 26, Martin rated it it was amazing. John Masters' memoir of his early life as a soldier in India is a joy to read.
Later very successful as a novelist, his sense of place, character and history is unerring. This might be one of the best written military memoirs you will ever read. Due to family penury, but a long history with the Raj Army, John was destined for imperial service. His attendance at the Royal Military College at Sandhurst and further service with first British and then Gurkha troops in India, just prior to John Masters' memoir of his early life as a soldier in India is a joy to read.
His attendance at the Royal Military College at Sandhurst and further service with first British and then Gurkha troops in India, just prior to the beginning of World War II, makes up the bulk of the prose. But there are also tales from a trip across America, a impromptu Tiger hunt and many long discussions of India as both a place and state of mind.
In all he grabs your attention and keeps the pace compelling at all times. The junior reader will find a great introduction to India and the Empire, the discussion is always simple and direct, although the vocabulary will be challenging.
Well worth the effort. Gurkha fans will not want to have missed this book, as a British Officers' eloquent discussion of their best soldiers is always a treat. Feb 16, Corto rated it it was amazing. A previous reviewer warned that if a potential reader was looking for an account of what war was like with the predecessors of today's Taliban, they would be somewhat disappointed.
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However- that isn't to say what is there, isn't of value. There are descriptions of combat and the region which may be of interest to someone familiar with the most recent conflict, not to mention that Master's complai A previous reviewer warned that if a potential reader was looking for an account of what war was like with the predecessors of today's Taliban, they would be somewhat disappointed.
There are descriptions of combat and the region which may be of interest to someone familiar with the most recent conflict, not to mention that Master's complaints about restrictive rules of engagement are as bitter as anything written about Afghanistan in the last 14 years. It seems that the conflict between the guidance to wage a humanistic campaign that limited civilian casualties, while attempting to utilize tactics that were "effective", is not a new dilemma. The more things change, etc. The rest of the book, to put it mildly, is fascinating. Masters is a very evocative writer and paints a vivid picture of a world that no longer exists- the life of a British officer, in a storied regiment of Gurkhas in the North West Frontier Province and what today is the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan of the late 's.
There is also a long section on Master's education at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, as well as in-depth observations of the tribal customs, traditions, rituals and mores of the British Officer Class and the Gurkhas themselves. Equally interesting are his perceptions of America which he visited on a furlough. The book opened my eyes to a place and period of history that I'd previously had no interest in, but now has intrigued me significantly. The book ends with the start of hostilities with Germany. Given what I've just read about John Master's evolution from green Subaltern to seasoned professional soldier, and I can't see stopping now.
His memoir of WWII is next. Feb 05, Ensiform rated it really liked it Shelves: non-fiction , india. Masters came of age during the last days of the British Raj, and loves India as a true home even as he recognizes how silly that sounds to independent Indians. He writes with perspicacious detachment on growing up, on becoming a man, on valor and discipline and honor, and has a lot of sensible things to say on British rule of India.
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But more that that, his book is full of charming and lurid anecdotes on the life of the memsahib in India, the trysts of the soldiers, the foibles of the officers, and of course the hardiness of the Gurkha. How can you not be fascinated in Gurkha military life after hearing the story of the parachute volunteers? He is full of respect, however, for these hardy people, their way of life, and their tactical ingenuity. A superb memoir of British India, in all.
Jan 15, Prem Rao rated it it was amazing. If you are a fan of writing about India and the British Raj, you shouldn't miss this one. John Masters wrote many books about India featuring the Savage family, most famous among them being "Bhowani Junction. It is the first part of the two part autobiography, the second being ' The Road Past Mandalay.
Masters has a dry sense of humour and uses this effectively from time to time. Those days are gone but if you like stories of the old days in India when the British Empire was still around, Masters' autobiography should be a good addition to your reading list Oct 28, David Hill rated it really liked it Shelves: biography.
Masters wrote three books of autobiography. This is the first. This one covers the years from his enrollment at Sandhurst to the start of the second world war. It is a story of conflict, but not simply battles. It is the conflict within the young man, born in India but not Indian; a British officer but not in the British army; his love of India and understanding that the place he loved was bound for change.
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Aug 28, Alyson Hagy rated it liked it. This is an important book for readers who like to scour military memoirs for a certain type of on-the-ground insight. I appreciated Masters' commentary about the Ghurkas and their fighting history. And I found his descriptions of the Northwest Frontier i. A solid book. A memoir that doesn't reach too far. Jun 11, Eric Smith rated it really liked it.
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Fantastic story of a piece of history slipping ever more into the past. This is In the tradition of Heroditus, with Masters writing so we can remember what things were like at a specific time and place. Don't read this for a battlefield analysis of Imperial counterinsurgency in the Northwest Frontier Area, but read it for the good yarn it is, the excellent writing, and the reminder that things really haven't changed that much.
Jan 18, Ian rated it really liked it Shelves: memoir , india. I have a edition of that book which had belonged to my father, who had himself been part of the 14th Army in India and Burma in WWII. After reading it I always had it in mind to read the series from the beginning. In this book the author lays out his life story from the early s and the beginning of his time at Sandhurst t Some years ago I actually read the second book in this autobiographical trilogy, "The Road Past Mandalay", which relates John Masters' experiences in WWII.
In this book the author lays out his life story from the early s and the beginning of his time at Sandhurst the officer training school for the British Army , up to the outbreak of the Second World War. Masters is quite honest that as a young man he was quite full of himself, and as a result wasn't always well-liked.
One of the book's themes is about how he developed as a person as a result of his time as an Indian Army officer. The book certainly has its moments, but on the whole I wasn't as impressed with it as I was with "The Road Past Mandalay". Much of the humour is of the English public school variety, which leaves me cold, though I did laugh my way through the chapter where Masters, as a serving Indian Army officer, goes to the cinema to see "Lives of a Bengal Lancer" - his first sight of India as it was envisaged by s Hollywood.
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On a personal level I also had to smile at the author's reference to the phrase "Ek dum", an expression my dad used when I was a boy and he wanted me to do something quickly. I understand it is Hindi for "At once! Part of the book relates how, in , Masters took part in one of the last full-scale campaigns fought on the North West Frontier during the time of the Raj. It took place in Waziristan, today the centre of the Taliban inspired insurgency in Pakistan, and reading Masters' account of the fighting the reader is struck by the similarities with today, with the local tribesmen calling Jihad against the British and fighting a guerrilla style campaign that led Masters to describe the British response as akin to "using a crowbar to swat wasps.
Taking the book as a whole, I swithered between 3 and 4 stars. It's enjoyable but patchy. Shelves: military-history , history. This is a fascinating autobiography of a young British officer in a Ghurka regiment in India in the last years of the British Raj. Masters provides insight into India during this period, British military tradition particularly the role of "the Regiment" , the Ghurkas, and military action on the NW Frontier of India. He describes his development as a young officer without hiding his foibles and mistakes, as well as his successes.
The book ranges from action, to descriptive, to reflective, to hum This is a fascinating autobiography of a young British officer in a Ghurka regiment in India in the last years of the British Raj. The book ranges from action, to descriptive, to reflective, to humorous. This book would appeal to anyone interested in life in India during this period, or those interested in British military.
It is also a book that should be read by young officers in the process of learning how to command. Jan 06, Mark rated it really liked it. I was drawn to this really because my father served in the army alongside the Gurkhas.
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