CHASING THE MOUNTAIN OF LIGHT by Kevin Rushby

CHASING THE MOUNTAIN OF LIGHT

Across India on the Trial of the Koh-i-Noor Diamond

KIRKUS REVIEW

A sometimes glittering travelogue that traces the strange fortunes of a fabulous jewel.

Rushby, an accomplished and adventurous English traveler in the vein of the Victorians he so clearly admires, has a knack

for choosing oddball quests. For his first book (Eating the Flowers of Paradise, 1999) he went off in search of a mildly narcotic

stimulant that keeps much of northeastern Africa humming; in this, his second, he wanders across northern India to relate the

curious history of the Koh-i-Noor diamond, whose name means "the mountain of light." Held in Indian folklore to have been

the possession of the god Krishna, the great diamond—possibly thousands but more likely hundreds of years old—wrongly fell

into English hands in 1849 and, after having been misplaced for a time, was shipped off as a gift to an apparently unimpressed

Queen Victoria before ending up in the Tower of London. Rushby takes his readers through back alleys and marketplaces to

discuss the still-thriving Indian diamond trade, once the world’s largest; anyone seeking an introduction to how diamonds are

mined, graded, and made into ornamental objects will learn much from his pages. He also examines, carefully and patiently,

contending claims over the diamond’s ownership, coming down on the side—but not without reservation—of the Indian activists

who are now seeking the diamond’s return. Rushby’s narrative bogs down here and there, and creaks a little under the weight

of his hurried synopses of Anglo-Indian history. The author atones, however, with self-deprecating humor—attempting a sentence

in the Telugu tongue, he sputters, "Where great man diamond history?" only to have his interlocutors answer in perfectly fluent

English—and with a practiced eye for useful local detail.

A satisfying entertainment that will beguile armchair travelers, students of Indian history, and jewel collectors alike.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-312-22813-9
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 2000




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