FREEDOM AT MIDNIGHT by Larry & Dominique LaPierre Collins

FREEDOM AT MIDNIGHT

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The authors of Is Paris Burning? (1965) and O Jerusalem! (1972) narrate the ever-so-colorful and even more sanguinary story of India's formal exit from the British Empire. Lord Louis Mountbatten provided his archives, which are used to show how this most liberal and lovable of Viceroys made friends not only with the ""English gentleman"" Nehru but even with Gandhi. Thus the Mahatma was actually persuaded to endorse the Pakistan-India partition as the population's ""own fault."" Mountbatten himself is described as viewing partition as sad but inevitable, and settling down to draw the border lines that happened to set off the most horrible slaughter. Thus, after three weeks of independence, Nehru came hobbling to beg Mountbatten to take over power again, which he did, with his dauntless wife Edwina cuddling cholera-striken infants up to her knees in the fabled Indian slime. The mass butchery among Moslems, Sikhs and Hindus had the side effect of unsettling the local princes from their ground-diamond aphrodisiacs and plastic surgeon-serviced harems. Meanwhile Gandhi fasted and Hindu extremists plotted to kill him. Despite an avalanche of leads and tips, the police failed to stop the assassination, with which the book ends. Countless corpses clog the rivers and the tempestuous natives settle down to their accustomed torpor. On behalf of the authors, who spent three years with a team of researchers recreating this spectacle, two things can be said: they only occasionally rise above sensationalism, and they avoid petty biases. The chronicle itself--while it certainly hints that Mountbatten and also Gandhi were clever manipulators--expresses one big old-fashioned bias--toward the British, ""trapped"" by dissensions and pogroms which they in fact did their best to create. Still, there's never a dull moment as Collins and LaPierre pull out all stops to maximize the drama of the last hours of the British raj.

Pub Date: Oct. 20th, 1975
Publisher: Simon & Schuster