While Wolpert wisely starts five years prior to Britain's disengagement from India-with the fall of Singapore in February 1942 and the subsequent failure of the Cripps Mission-it nevertheless focuses on the tragic miscalculations of Lord Louis Mountbatten, the last viceroy of India. The author, a UCLA history professor and author of Gandhi's Passion, argues that Mountbatten's rushed and ill-informed separation plan, which involved partitioning Punjab and Bengal (a decision that resulted in an estimated 500,000 to 1 million deaths for those caught on the wrong side of the freshly-drawn borders), could scarcely have inflicted more harm upon the region. Though Wolpert's belief that the botched partition of British India is responsible for decades of violence is not an entirely pioneering theory, his account of the complex events surrounding the separation (and its bloody aftermath) makes for powerful reading and is accessible to non-specialists. India's growing economic might and profile in the West may bring in readers who would otherwise pass.
Reviewed on: 10/01/2006 Release date: 10/01/2006 Genre: Nonfiction