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In 1943 Winston Churchill and the British Empire needed millions of Indian troops, all of India's industrial output, and tons of Indian grain to support the Allied war effort. Such massive contributions were certain to trigger famine in India. Because Churchill believed that the fate of the British Empire hung in the balance, he proceeded, sacrificing millions of Indian lives in order to preserve what he held most dear. The result: the Bengal Famine of 1943-44, in which millions of villagers starved to death.
Relying on extensive archival research and first-hand interviews, Mukerjee weaves a riveting narrative of Churchill's decisions to ratchet up the demands on India as the war unfolded and to ignore the corpses piling up in the Bengali countryside. The hypocrisy, racism, and extreme economic conditions of two centuries of British colonial policy finally built to a head, leading Indians to fight for their independence in 1947.
Few Americans know that World War II was won on the backs of these starving peasants; Mukerjee shows us a side of World War II that we have been blind to. We know what Hitler did to the Jews, what the Japanese did to the Chinese, what Stalin did to his own people. This story has largely been neglected, until now.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By scmathew on 06-25-14
A fascinating narrative with a flawed narration
Where does Churchill's Secret War rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?
It's a pretty good audiobook. I've just listened to all of Simon Schama's "History of Britain" which ended off with some scathing commentary on the mismanagement of the Raj so it's interesting to move from that to an in-depth exploration of the Bengal Famine and India in the war effort.
Who would you have cast as narrator instead of James Adams?
Probably Madhav Sharma, who did a superb job with Kim. Mr Adams isn't a bad narrator per se, but the main problem is that he can't code switch accents when pronouncing a number of Indian terms and names which means that they sound tortured and very odd in his rather plummy British accent. This is, I suppose forgivable in the first couple of chapters where we get fleeting references to "die-wanns" (diwans) and so forth but in a book dealing primarily with India in the Inter-War period, the Second World War and it's aftermath, an inability to pronounce "satyagraha" or "Bose" (protip- it's not "Bo-Say") can be really jarring and jerks one out of the flow. It's as if I were listening to a history of the American Revolution and kept hearing about "George Wossingteen" (not that I'm trying to equate Bo-say with General Wossingteen) and the "Con-TINE-ental Congroos".
Any additional comments?
I wouldn't choose not to buy this audiobook just because of the narrator- in all else he's reasonably easy to listen to and Mukarjee's narrative itself is compelling and well written.
8 of 8 people found this review helpful
By another know it all on 08-11-15
tedious at times
I did learn a lot about India and its colonization by Brittan. the book is full of numbered statistics which are hard for me to absorb just hearing them. this might have between a better read than a listen.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By S on 05-21-13
Interesting reading, marred by pronunciation
This was an engrossing listen, but the narrator could have bothered to learn how to pronounce the names of the people better. That was a really jarring experience.
3 of 4 people found this review helpful
By surabhi on 02-13-17
Good book but failed narration
Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?
I liked the book itself quite a bit but found the narrator too distracting. The narrators atrocious pronunciation of Indian words was almost comical and distracted me from the serious storyline.
2 of 3 people found this review helpful