The Light That Failed (Collected Works of Rudyard Kipling)

ISBN: 0742628256
ISBN 13: 9780742628250
By: Rudyard Kipling

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About this book

In 1/1878 Kipling was admitted to the United Services College, at Westward Ho!, Devon, a school founded a few years earlier to prepare boys for the armed forces. The school proved rough going for him at 1st, but led to firm friendships & provided the setting for his schoolboy stories Stalky & Co. published years later. During his time there, he met & fell in love with Florence Garrard, the model for Maisie in his 1st novel, The Light That Failed, initially published in 1890 in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine. Dick Heldar is a war correspondent & an artist, known for the drawings he sends home to the London papers from wars in exotic places like Sudan. When he returns to London, he attempts to make a career for himself as a serious artist & encounters his childhood sweetheart, Maisie. They fall in love. Then he learns that a minor problem with his eyes is actually the onset of blindness, incurable--the result of a head wound he took during the war. As his vision fails, the light of everything around him--his life, his hopes, his dreams--fail with it. There are trerrible choies to be made between the love of the woman he treasures & the love of the men who stood by him at the front.

Reader's Thoughts

Ray Melville

OK, bit long winded, and moralising, and predictable towards the end.


I read this some 25 years ago, but it's a story that's stuck with me about an artist losing his eyesight after returning from war. I've always preferred Kipling's adult writings.


I am glad I read it. predictable and abrupt ending.

Talbot Hook

So, as I dislike reviews that attempt to provide a plot synopsis, I shan't go into one; what is important, however, is how evocative and affecting the book is. And, man, Kipling continues to write well. Of course, this is not one of his more well-known works, but it is poignant, well-envisioned, and sad.


A very depressing book. I read it when I was in high school. It was at a time when I was enamored of Kipling's writing, and was reading everything I could find by him. It was a major disappointment.


not usually a brit lit fan, but this surprised me. maybe all its modern-ess is enough of a selling point. anyway, definately readable.


One of my favorite Kipling stories. Most of Kipling is better than most of what's written todays, so give it a try.

Simon Mcleish

Originally published on my blog here in October 2000.One of Kipling's most interesting novels, The Light that Failed hovers on the edge of sentimentality for most of its pages, never quite slipping. Dick Heldar is an artist, who becomes successful through drawings of a war in Sudan for one of the London newspapers - this being in the days before photographs filled the newspapers. Returning to London, he begins to work as a serious artist, and re-encounters his childhood playmate, Maisie, and falls in love with her. Just as he begins work on what is to be his masterpiece, he has to seek medical advice for a problem with his eyes and is told that he is going blind, incurably, as a result of the after affects of a head wound received in the Sudan.In the original published version of the story, The Light that Failed ended here, with Maisie marrying Dick to look after him. Kipling later changed this, saying that he was restoring the story to what he had always wanted it to be, and wrote a much longer ending (about a third of the novel as it now stands) in which Maisie abandons Dick and leaves him to sink into squalor. The original ending is trite and sentimental, and the novel as it now stands has far greater power.The Light that Failed works because of the way it is written, with the contrast between the high spirits of a group of bachelor friends in the first half, and the serious theme of the second. Both parts are extremely well written, the earlier part being like the more cheerful army stories or parts of the Jungle Book. It is carefree, and this makes Dick's physical disintegration in the second half more powerful.The novel is not really a particularly deep one; its concern is more with Dick's physical dissolution than with an in depth analysis of his psychology and the effects of his blindness. By leaving this to the imagination of the reader, it is extraordinarily effective, while remaining easy to read.

Noah Diewald

Ever have one of those days where everything went wrong? Nah, this book ain't about a case of the Mondays. It is about shattered dreams and shattered love, where a man who is tough and strong and vibrant just manages to get his life back on his own terms. Kipling touches all the right strings at the right time, failing to over analyze his characters he demonstrates a reaction to crisis.

Robin Hobb

The Light That Failed took me into a different realm of Kipling's writing. It's the tale of an artist who draws what he sees of war, and then, as his eyesight is failing, sets out to complete his Melancholia.I won't give any more spoilers than that, except to say that his portrayals of the friendships he experiences with both men and women are still very moving to me.


There were aspects of this novel which will no doubt linger, such a work so preoccupied with light and color. I felt the characters genuine albeit incomplete.


I will always like this book. Kipling didn't write enough stories like this set in England, that was the main reason I bought the book, since I like most of Kiplings work, but don't always feel like reading about exotic locations. Every sentence Kipling writes is fairly awesome, which just leaves me wishing for more common stories by him.

Donald Moss

Kipling does it to me everytime.


I think I like Kipling's poetry and his fantasy and far-away books better, but this was a good, unusual book for me for the first week of 2009.

James Wallis

Starts very well, but gets bogged down with its major plot twist. Some extraordinary and powerful scenes and passages but the structure is a mess, the final chapters don't seem to fit, and the whole is less than the sum of the parts. I'm glad I read it but I wouldn't go back to it.

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