An immensely detailed, intelligently organized portrait of the man who, next to Gandhi himself, was the leading architect of Indian independence. Published to coincide with the centenary of Nehru's birth, this may prove to be the definitive biography of the political leader for years to come. The son of a very successful lawyer--whose Anglophilia expressed itself in Savile Row tailoring and the insistence that only English be spoken in his palatial home--Nehru was an unlikely candidate for his later position as socialist revolutionary. Educated at Harrow and supported by his doting father, the young man frittered away a few years (and scads of Dad's money) as a playboy. Coming into contact with the tenets of Gandhism, however, he soon devoted the remainder of his life to ending the British hegemony in his homeland (Akbar is particularly effective in delineating Nehru's growing involvement in the Indian independence movement and in tracing the political, religious, and social complexities that divided the subcontinent). If there is a common theme that linked the various elements of Nehru's life, it was his commitment to ending the communalism that split the Indian people into suspicious and often warring factions. This drive to unite Muslim, Hindu, Sikh and other religionists into a cohesive whole was Gandhi's legacy--and one to which Nehru devoted all his efforts; unfortunately, it seems that Nehru's vision has yet to be realized. In tracing his subject's life, the author captures in vivid detail such figures as Muhammad Ali Jinnah, founder of Pakistan and Nehru's nemesis; Winston Churchill, defender of British imperialism; Louis Mountbatten; and Gandhi himself. In these portraits and elsewhere, his prose is graceful and at times even slyly acidic (the Aga Khan is ""that. . . expert of second-class music halls""). Stylish and informative, then, a major biography for those interested in the decline of the British Raj and the rise of modern India.