Indira: The Life of Indira Nehru Gandhi

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9780007259304: Indira: The Life of Indira Nehru Gandhi

The definitive and first non-partisan biography of one of the most formidable political figures of the 20th-century (voted Woman of the Millennium in a BBC poll, 2000)Indira Gandhi's life, from her birth in 1917, through partition and up to her assassination in 1984, was dominated by the politics of her country. Always directly involved in India's turbulent 20th-century history, once she accepted the mantle of power, she became one of the world's most powerful and significant women. This biography, the first to be written by an unpartisan, Western woman, will focus on Gandhi's role as a female leader of men in one of the most chauvinistic, complex and politicised cultures in the world.Comprehensive, yet also personal, Frank's biography will deal with power and how this often isolated woman handled it, alongside her family and her emotional life. It will be the definitive book on one of this century's most powerful and important women.

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Review:

The veteran author of critically praised books about Emily Brontë and Lucie Duff Gordon has written an exemplary popular biography of the powerful, controversial prime minister who indelibly shaped the world's largest democracy. Katherine Frank's solidly researched narrative is particularly good on the early years of Indira Gandhi (1917-84), cogently delineating her complex relationship with her father, nationalist hero Jawaharlal Nehru, which was intimate when they were pouring out their feelings in letters, but strained when they were actually together. We see an intelligent, strong-minded woman coming of age in a turbulent time marked by her relatives' frequent stays in prison as India struggled for freedom from Great Britain. After independence, when Nehru became prime minister, Gandhi was politically active but for many years resisted seeking power in her own right. Following the deaths of her husband (Feroze Gandhi, no relation to the Mahatma) in 1960 and Nehru in 1964, she moved into the top spot, aided by the Congress Party bosses' mistaken impression that she would be a figurehead they could manipulate. On the contrary, Frank shows Prime Minister Gandhi prompted by her deep fear of disorder toward increasingly authoritarian acts, most notoriously the state of emergency declared in 1975, when she authorized the arrest of many opposition leaders. Frank depicts Gandhi as having more faith in her personal bond with the Indian people than in the messy workings of democracy. But the religious and political divisions inflamed by her policies came home to roost in 1984, when she was assassinated by her own bodyguard, a Sikh enraged by the massacre of militant Sikhs in the Golden Temple. This sympathetic but unsparing portrait makes it clear that Gandhi was a flawed leader but evinces compassion for a woman striving with a difficult personal and political legacy. --Wendy Smith

About the Author:

Katherine Frank, who was born and educated in the United States, is the author of three acclaimed biographies, of Lucie Duff Gordon, Emily Bronte and Mary Kingsley. She has taught at universities in West Africa and the Middle East as well as Britain. During six years of researching and writing Indira she spent extended periods in India. She now lives in England.

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