Churchill's Secret War: The British Empire and the Ravaging of India During World War II by Madhusree Mukerjee
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Mukerjee has excellent illuminating points to make, backed up by tremendous research, but he blows just about all of his payload early on.
He tells the salacious and devastating story of how Winston Churchill worked behind the scenes to keep the Indians subjugated under the grip of the British Empire as he publicly faced down the Nazi threat. The sinister, greed and race-driven motives add a disturbing shadow to Churchille's lionized image as a staunch defender of freedom and foil to tyranny.
The messy, obfuscated history of India and Pakistan bubbles to light in Mukerjee's writing, which highlights genocides, famines and exploitation that were overshadowed by the grand opera of World War II, and thus escaped the level of global public consciousness they otherwise would have earned.
As stirring as the beginning of the book is, it fails to extrapolate the seeds to a grander vision, instead dallying on piles of academic citations and monotonous listings of obscure, irrelevant statistics. The message begins to get lost in the weeds in a series of lectures meant to put students to sleep.
In the Audible version, narrator James Adams delivers the findings with appropriate distaste, barely hidden by a prim, proper British congeniality. His words bubble with a sense of embarrassment and resentment of the despicable imperial past of his nation.
"Churchill's Secret War" ends up being too much like a textbook to rise to the level of essential storytelling. Its most staggering points could have been summarized in a lengthy article in the Atlantic or New Yorker. But its lessons are stark and true, and deserve a better mindshare than that which books like these will be able to elevate them.
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