With Clive in India Book Review
Have you ever read a book that was amazing up until the end? Well, With Clive in India is one of those books; it’s really good until the last few chapters. This is one of the most hotly debated books that G.A. Henty ever wrote, and reviews and comments on the internet show it very well, the book is debated among people who have read it. This book review will provide an analysis of the book, as well as the pros and the cons of the novel.
The novel’s plot starts out with a young boy at the age of sixteen named Charlie Marryat going off to India after receiving a writership. While he is on the boat headed for India, Charlie meets an Irishman named Tim who is loud and talkative but nice and respectful to others. When Charlie arrives in India, he quickly learns the customs of the natives and one of their languages, Hindustani. Charlie eagerly requests to serve as a volunteer under Clive, and is accepted. Charlie spends much of his time in India fighting in many military engagements against the French and other enemies. Charlie, after a few battles alongside Clive, is given a special assignment to find Boorhau Reo, a rajah in Northern India, and to train his men in the European fashion, since the British can’t protect him due to the distance between their lands in India. Charlie brings his good friend Tim along as a syce, or horse-keeper, and the two, along with four of Charlie’s best men, set off to Reo’s domain. Charlie trains the rajah’s men in secret until the rajah had a standing force of over 3,000 men, trained as if they were British soldiers. While he is there, Charlie acquires a servant named Hossein, who saves Charlie’s life on multiple occasions throughout the book. Charlie also gains much battlefield experience and becomes a great tactician.
The setting of the novel, for the most part, takes place during the Seven Years’ War, particularly (and obviously) the Indian, or Carnatic, theater, which took place from 1756 (when war in India began) to 1763. The point of all these battles is to effectively gain control of an area of land, in this case, India. India was very important to both Britain and France due to the spices grown there, which charged high prices in Europe, and the wealthy, especially the Monarch, enjoyed, and since the Monarch was the head of state, they decided to colonize those spice-producing areas. Gaining control over the natives, even if they resisted, was easy, since the Europeans had weapons such as guns and cannons, so the only problems they had were other colonizing nations, in Britain’s case; France.
Charlie’s character is also something to note, for one, he was a brilliant tactician, ultimately a mastermind in the novel. His tactics in battle always succeed eventually and if Charlie were real, someone in this day and age might mistake him for a supercomputer. Charlie can also be controlling due to his mastermind nature, but he shows some generosity in the novel too. You never know what Charlie will do next in the novel, whether he will order an execution or let a guilty man go. There are also supporting characters like Tim and Hossein, but Charlie is the main character in the novel, and gets most of the attention in the novel.
The author, G.A. Henty, was known for writing adventure stories for children (boys). Henty’s views, including his huge support for British imperialism, can be seen throughout the book, including having all battles resulting in British victory. The British didn’t win all the major battles; Henty just chose those ones to insert into the novel, which makes Charlie’s abilities seem so great.
The novel overall was average in terms of enjoyment, but the best way to look at it is to divide it into thirds. The first third being chapters 1 – 10, the second third being chapters 11 – 20, and the final third being chapters 21 – 30. The first third of the novel, where Charlie sails off to India and his battles alongside Clive, was average on terms of being enjoyable, but that is okay, since the introduction is seldom the best part of a novel. The middle third was the best third of the novel, opening when Charlie receives his special assignment and ending with a much needed rescue. Those chapters are quick, exciting, and engaging to read and enjoy. The last third, however, is a repetitive, dull series of battles and ruins the excitement of not knowing what will come next with repetition. The only thing that could keep someone reading those dreadful chapters would be curiosity on what happens to Charlie, but it shouldn’t be too hard to guess the end result based on Henty’s views in favor of British imperialism along with his style of writing.
The story was mostly believable because there were many battles, which made sense for a story taking place during wartime, but Charlie must have lost at least one engagement he fought in or led. After all, he wasn’t Alexander the Great (who never lost a battle), but Henty’s opinions influenced his work. So, besides those things, the story is believable.
In With Clive in India, there is one main character and a few supporting characters, and the best out of all of these is Tim. His way of talking, saying “shure” instead of “sure”, and “yer” instead of “your” makes him a heartwarming character, especially when stakes are high and he can’t do something, such as swimming, for example. When certain points hit that are boring and dull, Tim may pop in and say something that, with correct grammar, is not all that funny, but with his incorrect grammar, is funny and cheerful, even in the most dire times. That’s what makes Tim so great.
I, in the end, wouldn’t recommend With Clive in India because of its last third, a repetitive, dull, sequence of battles. However, the book isn’t terrible, it’s actually average, and is good despite one third of the novel being dull.
In conclusion, With Clive in India is about a boy named Charlie Marryat who goes to India after receiving a writership but soon volunteers into the army. Charlie, after a few battles, is sent to Boorhau Reo, a rajah in Northern India, to train his men in the European fashion until he has over 3,000 men ready for battle. While he is in India, Charlie acquires a servant named Hossein, who saves his life on more than one occasion, and is very helpful to Charlie. Charlie also gains experience on the battlefield and wins in multiple engagements. Most, if not all, of these engagements take place during the Seven Years’ War, or in India, the Third Carnatic War, which lasted from 1756 to 1763. The novel depicts Charlie as a mastermind and, if he tried to conquer the world, there wouldn’t be much stopping him. G.A. Henty, the author, helped to create this mastermind vision by only inserting battles that resulted in British victory in With Clive in India, and this went along with his support of British imperialism. The novel gets an average rating, due to Charlie not losing a battle, which would have given him more of a hardship to overcome, and also would have given the novel some color, or made it not as dull. Also, the last third of the novel, chapters 21-30, is entirely composed of repetitive and dull battles (repetition causing the dullness), which seriously downgraded the novel. The best part of the novel, however, was very colorful and posed some interesting challenges for Charlie, including training an army for Boorhau Reo. This was the middle third, or chapters 11 – 20. One thing Henty did well in was making the story believable, in a war there are battles and campaigns, the Seven Years’ War being no exception, however, as mentioned earlier, Charlie not losing any engagements made the story not as believable since across the globe the British lost many engagements during the war before becoming the winning force in 1759. In the end though, With Clive in India is an average book, with its pros and cons, but the cons, small but mighty, outweigh the pros, and therefore, I would not recommend With Clive in India.