Book Review – KIPLING & TRIX by Mary Hamer

Kipling & Trix Synopsis

Kipling & Trix by Mary Hamer

As small children, Rudyard Kipling and his sister Trix lived an enchanted life in India playing with their beloved servants and running around freely. Their innocent happiness came to an abrupt end when they were sent back to England to live with strangers and forced to conform to the strict rules of Edwardian society in an alien country.

Both brother and sister grew up to become writers, although one lived in the shadow of the other’s genius. Rudyard Kipling’s incredible life is known to many while his poetry and books have been read by millions but what became of his talented younger sister? Her story, full of love and lies, became a distressing family secret that was hidden from the world…

Mary Hamer has unearthed the truth about Alice Kipling, known to her family affectionately as Trix. In this fictionalised account of their lives, the author goes to the heart of the relationship between a difficult brother and his troubled sister and explores how their early lives shaped the very different people they were later to become.  (AuroraMetro)


In Kipling & Trix, Mary Hamer’s passion for her subject matter shines through. Although her first work of fiction, it is abundantly clear that Hamer has left no stone unturned to better understand the man behind the name Rudyard Kipling, along with those that influenced him.

I find myself attracted to fictional works based on historical fact. Fine examples include Wanting by Richard Flanagan and The Discovery of Jeanne Baret by Glynis Ridley. I do however think the success of titles in this genre depends on two key things — the extent to which today’s reader feels empathy or admiration for the actions of the historical figures, and the judicious selection of historical fact to utilise within the fiction.

While I found learning what shaped this well known and influential historical figure compelling, I found neither Rudyard or his sister Trix particularly endearing. While I sympathised with them as children, I found them aloof as adults. But that’s one of the pitfalls of basing fiction on fact – the fact is, many people are just not that likeable!

The character whose perspective I found myself most invested in was Rudyard’s wife. A beautifully realised character by Hamer, Carrie Kipling’s stoicism, intelligence, internal fortitude and guiding hand were qualities truly to be admired within the historical context. Mary Hamer’s attention to detail actually produced several well developed second tier characters I enjoyed learning about.

A passion for sharing factual detail when developing fiction based on fact can however detract if not applied judiciously. I’m of the opinion that in several instances leaving out particular occurrences in the lives of the Kiplings would have strengthened the Kipling & Trix storyline. I can however imagine how hard that may have been to do after researching a subject matter so thoroughly.

SubscribeMary Hamer’s storytelling approach in Kipling & Trix is straight forward but I had mixed feelings about the artistic choice of writing styles appropriate to the period. While this added to the evocation of time, place and social standing, it did on occasion interrupt my reading flow.

I have great admiration for authors whose passion for seeking the truth shines from the page like Mary Hamer’s does in Kipling & Trix, and think her telling this story shines an important light on the too often idealised lives of figures that influenced society.

BOOK RATING: The Story 3.5 / 5 ; The Writing 3.5 / 5

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BOOK DETAILS: Kipling & Trix by Mary Hamer ( AmazonBooktopia | Indiebound )

Genre: Historical, Drama, Adventure

Author Information: Mary Hamer travels widely and has lectured in many countries. Her work has appeared in the Economist, the Guardian and the Independent. She has contributed to television and radio programmes, such as In Search of Cleopatra, Women’s Hour and Night Waves.

Mary began her career in the university, teaching at Cambridge for twenty years, but soon found that research was her real passion. To date she has written 4 non-fiction titles (Writing by Numbers, Julius Caesar,  Signs of Cleopatra and Incest: A New Perspective)  and Kipling and Trix is her fifth book and first novel. Ever since Rudyard Kipling lit her imagination as a child, Mary had wanted to write about him. At ten years old, though she’d no talent for art, she doggedly modelled Hathi the elephant’s head in plasticine. And like the elephant, she never forgot. As a grown woman she gradually realised that the story of his sister, Trix, was just as compelling.

Mary Hamer lives in London with her husband, an engineer. She also spends part of the year in the US.

– Checkout Mary Hamer’s website and her very interesting blog were she discusses further the research she undertook in writing this novel and her experience talking to the public about it.

Other reviews of Kipling & Trix: Historical Novel Society; Neon; These Little Words

* Receiving this title free from AuroraMetro did not impact my ability to express my honest opinions in the review above.