ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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An Astonishing Tale about Global Poverty

Poverty and Progress: Realities and Myths about Global Poverty by Deepak Lal; New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2015; pp xi and 248, Rs 495.

Extraordinary books are poorly served by ordinary (or at least conventional) reviews. Arthur Marshall, a man of letters distinguished for the facts, among others, that he served as Britain’s Chief Security Officer for the Commandos on D-Day in World War II and had a passion for schoolgirls’ stories, recognised this truth early on in his reviewing career. Extraordinary books, he realised, must be allowed to speak for themselves, with a minimum of intervention and commentary by the reviewer. This sampler from his review of Bessie Merchant’s Miss Wilmer’s Gang is a case in point:

…[T]his year there has appeared the most absorbing and astonishing tale of its kind that I have ever read… ‘Outwardly prim and precise, Miss Wilmer, at forty-five was raging and fuming inside.’ She is also ‘compound of nervous activity and tremendous energy’, and she inherits two uninhabited islands in Patagonia. …Her girls eventually rescue her and put her on a stretcher…; she manages, however, to tell her stretcher-bearers: ‘You’re both made of good stuff, for sure,’ to which they reply: ‘Don’t you fret, chief dear.’ They then ‘hoist’ her on board the boat (this operation is described as ‘fearful work’). Soon after, Miss Wilmer is throttled by a delirious Portuguese…Her methods of dealing with the patient are original indeed: ‘When he fell a little quiet she dozed; when he raved and yelled she just sat up and took notice,’ and this process is later referred to as ‘Going all out nursing him’.

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