In Sikkim, Andrew Duff tells the remarkable true story of a remote Himalayan kingdom that survived the end of the British Empire only to be annexed by India in 1975. At its heart lies a love story: when the last King of Sikkim married American Hope Cooke in a ‘fairytale wedding in 1963, Cooke became known as ‘the Grace Kelly of the East’. But as tensions between India and China spilled over into war in the Himalayas, Sikkim became a pawn in the Cold War in Asia during the 1960s and 1970s. On the eve of declaring an Emergency across India, Indira Gandhi outwitted everyone to bring down the curtain on the 300 year-old Namgyal dynasty. Duff discovered the story while retracing a journey his grandfather made through Sikkim in 1922.
Residents of St Andrews will be interested to know that the book features the letters of Martha Hamilton, former headmistress of St Leonards School in St Andrews, who taught in Sikkim between 1959 and 1965. Duff has also combed through recently released Wikileaks reports to show that Sikkim was on the desks of Kissinger and Nixon as much as Zhou En Lai and Indira Gandhi.
Come along on Thursday 15 October to hear this extraordinary tale of love, intrigue and the Cold War in Asia, ‘a wonderful story, expertly told’ (The Spectator), ‘richly researched’ (Literary Review) with ‘all the ingredients for a major feature film.’