Book Review

In Spite of the Gods by Edward Luce

The other day in a dinner conversation the topic was on how India has a nation has grown in spite of everything – Corruption, Inefficient bureaucracy and all the differences. That’s when this book came up “In Spite of the Gods: The Strange Rise of Modern India by Edward Luce“. I bought the book immediately and I finished reading it during my travel now.

The book is an excellent work done by Mr.Edward Luce, who is a journalist with Financial Times. During his various assignments, he had worked in London, New Delhi and now in Washington. Mr Luce is best suited to do this book because of his long stay in India, his wife being an Indian and finally he is a Britisher (a lot of things in India are still colonial hangovers). Without these backgrounds, he couldn’t have done such a wonderful job.

Mr Luce finely balances a westerner viewpoint and Indian insight in a lucid manner – you don’t see contradictions anywhere. Many things about India is puzzling to understand even for Indians, and many times you have to go back to long gone history to truly understand. For doing this Mr Luce start with a detail of larger than life figure of 3 modern day Indians – Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and BR Ambedkar. People who know India know that North India is very different from South India and so on., so Mr Luce seems to have done extensive travel to report both sides.

I was happy to read about the good things he talks about the work of my state (Tamil Nadu) government. I learned many things from the book about India that I didn’t know before or haven’t seen it that way. One observation I really liked is Mr.Luce’s case on how several welfare programs in India like anti-poor program, literacy programs, free power, labour laws which are all created with good intentions are not effective because of the very bureaucracy that is created to run it.  Mr.Luce talks with ease of both India’s strength and weakness.

If you are an Indian or someone interested in India, this is a must-read book. Thank you Mr.Luce.



  • Venkatarangan TNC

    Hi Russell, glad to know you liked my blog. I am happy for your brother who is visiting India. You say your brother is coming to New Delhi or Mumbai, which are both Metropolitan cities with people around the world working there, so there should be absolutely no problems for your brother. In fact, he will be thrilled by the hospitality of Indians there. I haven’t heard any backlash in India against Chinese as the numbers so far of Chinese working in India are very very small, and limited to bordering districts and manual labour.

  • Russell

    Hello , nice to see your blog here, i am russell, the book is one of my favorite book, i am a Chinese, i am very interested in India because of its old history and rapid development these years, yes, india is full of mistery to the world, even more than china. i write to you to inquire some information on chinese worker(engineer) in india.

    my brother’s name is hugh, he is about to go to india for 3 months , sent by his company-erricson, as the book tells, india and chinese are friend and competitors in many area, and india itself have a lot of religous and political conflicts within itself(like pakistan issue etc.), i am curious about the reality of chinese lives in india, do indians hate chinese because they "rob" their jobs? do the religious and political problems affect the chinese living in india? any danger for chinese engineers in india? any suggestion for them? most chinese are peaceful people, and only care about the job itself, so i think they wont do any harm to india, do you think so ? do you think the indian folks think the same way? my brother would go to New delhi or Mumbai, can you give some information about chinese living in these two city?

    thank you a lot for reading this letter, i think you are a nice and open-minded man, i would say sorry if i have any mis-speaking above, and dont take it to heart, looking forward to your reply to my , best wishes to your family and your country. —-russell xiao