Kipling & Trix is the first novel to be published by Mary Hamer, who was previously a non-fiction author. It’s a fictionalised biography of Rudyard Kipling (famous writer, poet and Nobel Prize winner). Intriguingly, it’s also concerned with Kipling’s seldom-heard-of sister, Alice (nicknamed “Trix”). The story between its covers revolves around both, beginning with their shared childhood and following their two quite different paths through life. It’s an unexpectedly exciting read, and a deserved winner of the Virginia Prize for Fiction.
Kipling’s life is a fascinating one, and Hamer provides a richly-detailed portrait of it. The novel begins in childhood, and examines the cruelty which Kipling faced at the hands of his foster carers – cruelty which in part gave rise to his literary inclinations. The pair then return to their home in India, and set out to pursue their respective destinies: Rudyard becomes a journalist and short story writer, while Trix concerns herself with her writing and her search for a suitable husband, whilst dabbling with increasing earnestness in spiritualism.
The written style is fairly simple and straightforward, but with a slightly “early 20th century” feel to it that effectively mirrors Kipling’s own stories. The style really helps place the novel in time, and evoke a sense of life in a different age.
The level of detail on display in this novel is also worth mentioning. The book is clearly the product of a staggering amount of research, which does a lot to help with the authenticity of the story. Those who already have some knowledge of Kipling’s life and works will not be disappointed here. In fact, quite the opposite. There were a few moments when I felt that the research was showing. Certain references felt rather like the author tipping a wink to those who have studied Kipling’s life already.
Indeed, some might say that with so specific a subject, the only audience for this book would be those with a pre-existing interest in Kipling and his work. This, I don’t think is true. Kipling & Trix manages to be both accurate and a beautifully-presented novel, rich with detail and character. Even those who are not usually fans of biography should be able to enjoy this excellent historical story.
Christopher Frost is a writer from the North of England.