Kipling’s Choice

Written by Geert Spillebeen Trans. Terese Edelstein
Review by Tess Allegra

“Without my spectacles, I’m nothing!” cries out Lt. John Kipling as he falls, wounded and gassed whilst leading his battered regiment in a hunt for German “nests.” They are nobly fighting the Great War to End All Wars, and the dying lieutenant’s cries are earsplitting, yet “none of the bewildered soldiers dare to help him for fear of humiliating the young officer.” Blacking out, he floats in and out of his halcyon past, recalling his “Daddo’s” efforts to influence friends to give his son a commission despite his inherited bad eyes. Rudyard Kipling’s Navy dreams give way to his son’s commission in the Irish Guard. The father fights vicariously through his son, but he cannot know the true suffering at the end. Such a brief life.

Although written for children, the novel covers brilliantly the themes of war, patriotism, idealism and how they are passed from father to son. The reader is pulled along in the alternating accounts of one privileged but brave life, snuffed out by the very ideals for which he was fighting. (Ages 12+)