Return of the King

24 February 2013 Books

Return of the King

William Dalrymple has already made his mark in both the travel and historical non-fiction genres. But this hefty and extraordinary book may be his masterwork. Return of a King painstakingly recreates the first Anglo–Afghan War (1839–1842), resurrecting some of the key players from all camps – and raising alarming parallels with the modern conflict. Dalrymple’s assiduous scholarship and travel-writer’s ease with language makes this not only an incredibly well-researched book, but something of a page-turner. Even the (extensive) acknowledgements section is worth a read; investigating a historical battle in a war zone is surely touching on Indiana Jones territory. The India-based author sharply renders the inglorious British defeat and its shameful atrocities, but also covers the political blunders, loyalty, betrayal and vicious feuds on all sides. And, rare for a military history of this period, perspectives of women involved are also included. It’s a great pity George W Bush couldn’t read this book back in 2001. 

Melissa Cranenburgh

Categories