Book Review- Freedom at Midnight
Author– Dominique Lapierre & Larry Collins
Rating– 4.3/5.0 (Goodreads)
Even for someone who has never had a penchant for history “Freedom at Midnight” by Dominique Lapierre & Larry Collins turns out to be a page-turner. This archival documentary yields a very charismatic yet terrifying account of the Indian Independence Movement. The book starts with the appointment of Louis Mountbatten as the last viceroy of India in 1939 and ends with the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi in 1949. The author duo take us on an enthralling ride that is bound to alter our perceptions, beliefs and ideologies regarding the very country and society that we inhabit.
Every facet of the Indian Independence story – such as the involuntary appointment of Louis Mountbatten as the last viceroy of India, Jinnah’s stiff-necked demand for Pakistan bolstered by riots and violence all over the nation, Gandhi’s aversion to Jinnah’s demand of partition, successful clinching of the partition issue after a series of failed efforts, the merger issue with princely states and the post partition tragedy – have been dealt with discreetly. The partition of India into India and Pakistan, the splintering of 3000 years of co-existence, the ensuing mass migration, and the religious genocide on both sides of the newly fashioned border is recorded with the compassion it deserves. The authors prefer their distinctive style – picking certain individuals and tracking them through the entire narrative while the bigger picture is laid out in the background.
The personification of Gandhi, being the central character, is another fascinating aspect of this book. One is bound to bow in humility and fall in love with this great soul, Mahatma, as one gets to learn his philosophy of life thorough certain skillfully arranged excerpts. He was certainly one of the giants of the 20th century. Among other eminent characters is Louis Mountbatten. It speaks of how he managed to acclaim the love and respect of India and its people within a short span of time. One cannot fail to notice his wise and ingenious administrative skills depicted in various chapters throughout the book. Besides, a slightly detailed portrayal of Sardar Patel and his role in aggregation of several independent states into “One India” could have stimulated the scope of this book.
Dominique Lapierre & Larry Collins gradually transform this historical story into a story of the masses, those with least ambitions but the most to lose. It is indeed a story of humanity that encapsulates the ingredients of both history and literature. A must read for every Indian.