The Last Englishmen: Love, War, and the End of Empire

Graywolf. Aug. 2018. 352p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781555978044. $28; ebk. ISBN 9781555979942. HIST
Baker (In Extremis) tells the stories of John Auden (1903–91), geologist of the Himalayas, and Michael Spender (1906–45), surveyor of Mount Everest, and the people around them, including their brothers who achieved literary acclaim. The author maintains a focus on Auden and Spender's aspirations of being the first to summit Everest, while also covering much of the turmoil and politics involved as Britain attempted to retain control over India. Baker's talent for crafting an intriguing narrative provides thorough views of the characters and settings involved, but the blend of the men's stories and historical details isn't always seamless. Similar works, such as Shashi Tharoor's Inglorious Empire, also cover the negative influence of the British Empire on the economy and life in India, but Baker's angle is distinct in its use of Auden and Spender's stories to mirror Britain's struggle to maintain its position of power.
VERDICT Recommended for readers interested in the history of India and the British Empire's influence on the country.
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