Plain Tales from the Hills conjures an intimate, evocative, often funny, and always vital portrait of India. Written by the much-loved Rudyard Kipling these stories comprise his unabridged observations of the British in India, originally commissioned for the Civil and Military Gazette for whom he worked as a journalist in the 1880s. Incredibly, Kipling wrote these famous and atmospheric pieces before he was 22, and they aptly illustrate his genius as a storyteller whose words and voice have stood the test of time. The raciness of his narrative, the astute detail and insight, the humor and vitality of his characters — all contribute to ensure these stories remain as various and memorable as India itself.
Set principally in Shimla, the mountain town and summer capital of the Raj, Kipling's 40 short stories on the manners and mores of British settlers in India are well observed and masterful character studies. Martin Jarvis begins beautifully; his warm voice is a rich and textured instrument, and he becomes Kipling's narrator effortlessly; rather like Fitzgerald's Nick Carraway, Kipling's stand-in casts a camera-like view on the intrigue, pettiness, and genuine tragedies in his little world. There is wit that borders on the Wildean (“She was wicked, in a businesslike way. There was never any scandal; she had not generous impulses enough for that”). It would be a nearly flawless listen—but for Jarvis's inaccurate and rather cringe-inducing accents for the Indian characters. (Jan.)