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Sea of Poppies At the heart of this vibrant saga is a vast ship, the Ibis Her destiny is a tumultuous voyage across the Indian Ocean shortly before the outbreak of the Opium Wars in China In a time of colonial upheaval, fate has thrown together a diverse cast of Indians and Westerners on board, from a bankrupt raja to a widowed tribeswoman, from a mulatto American freedman to a free spirited French orphan As their old family ties are washed away, they, like their historical counterparts, come to view themselves as jahaj bhais, or ship brothers The vast sweep of this historical adventure spans the lush poppy fields of the Ganges, the rolling high seas, and the exotic backstreets of Canton If I had known this book was the first part of a trilogy the other books as yet unwritten and that the book was not complete unto itself, in other words, this saga is a serial rather than a series, I would probably not have bought it And then I would have missed a book interesting for its historical period the Opium Wars with China about which I knew nothing, for its finely drawn characters and general good all round storytelling This is really a 5 star book, but I am only giving it 4 st If I had known this book was the first part of a trilogy the other books as yet unwritten and that the book was not complete unto itself, in other words, this saga is a serial rather than a series, I would probably not have bought it And then I would have missed a book interesting for its historical period the Opium Wars with China about which I knew nothing, for its finely drawn characters and general good all round storytelling This is really a 5 star book, but I am only giving it 4 stars because any serious review would be a spoiler, and this book is so good I wouldn t want to do that, and because I am pissed off at the author for finishing the story quite arbitarily and without having published the next chapter, the next book in the trilogy All I can say to Amitav Ghosh, is hurry up man, I m waiting, what happens next This rollicking adventure story about colonial India was beaten to the 2008 Booker Prize by The White Tiger, a novel that trades on its gritty realism but which is actually just as much a fantasy of Indian life as this one On the face of it, Sea of Poppies seems theenjoyable It has a huge, Dickensian cast that includes a fallen Rajah, a Chinese opium addict, a European girl gone native, a cross dressing reincarnated saint, an American freedman and a poppy farmer s widow, and its plot tak This rollicking adventure story about colonial India was beaten to the 2008 Booker Prize by The White Tiger, a novel that trades on its gritty realism but which is actually just as much a fantasy of Indian life as this one On the face of it, Sea of Poppies seems theenjoyable It has a huge, Dickensian cast that includes a fallen Rajah, a Chinese opium addict, a European girl gone native, a cross dressing reincarnated saint, an American freedman and a poppy farmer s widow, and its plot takes in dramatic rescues, nefarious Brits, girls dressed as boys, floggings and secret assignations and portentous items of jewelry Yet somehow there seems to be little going on under the surface it s thematically a bit hollow and I kept feeling that I should be liking itthan I was.At first glance, it s the sort of writing that should really appeal to me, because Ghosh s entry into this world and to these characters is all linguistic Every character has their own ludicrous demotic, with our American second mate exclaiming, Grease us twice What the hell you pesticatin me for, while Paulette, a young Frenchwoman, speaks in an entertaining but completely implausible Franglais you are just pleasanting me , he was quite bouleversed The main narrative voice, meanwhile, is a hallucinogenic Anglo Indian farrago that has been turned up to eleven, like Hobson Jobson in an opium dream the density of the following paragraph is not untypical In this floating bazar there was everything a ship or a lascar might need canvas by the gudge, spare jugboolaks and zambooras, coils of istingis and rup yan, stacks of seetulpatty mats, tobacco by the batti, rolls of neem twigs for the teeth, martabans of isabgol for constipation, and jars of columbo root for dysentery one ungainly gordower even had a choola going with a halwai frying up fresh jalebis.I have a high tolerance for indeed love of opaque vocabulary, but even I found it wearing here the effect is too extreme to come across as anything but parodic Tellingly, Ghosh reserves a special thank you in his afterword for the dictionarists whose work he so assiduously plundered not just Hobson Jobson, but also a variety of colonial era slang lists and glossaries, like A Laskari Dictionary or Anglo Indian Vocabulary of Nautical Terms and Phrases in English and Hindustani It s hard not to wish he d been a smidgensparing in how he used this research.Though I found it strangely unsatisfying, there is a lot to like here, really lush, gothic descriptions of an opium factory, a British jail, the hold of a slaving vessel are all well worth the cover price, and the characters are so bizarre that they rarely struggle to hold your interest I had a lot of fun, but I don t feel in a mad rush to read the rest of the trilogy I give a high place to Ghosh among contemporary English Authors from India.A saga of a ship, the Ibis, in the Indian Ocean and beautiful depiction of local characters in typical Indian way enthralled me and it kept me engaged with its characters and story.This is a sprawling novel and its historical treatment is wonderful I am sure, as Ghosh also acknowledges that he has toiled really hard, doing research of this certain period from the past He has masterfully woven the economic hardship and e I give a high place to Ghosh among contemporary English Authors from India.A saga of a ship, the Ibis, in the Indian Ocean and beautiful depiction of local characters in typical Indian way enthralled me and it kept me engaged with its characters and story.This is a sprawling novel and its historical treatment is wonderful I am sure, as Ghosh also acknowledges that he has toiled really hard, doing research of this certain period from the past He has masterfully woven the economic hardship and elements of British imperialism of early 19th century India.This is very panoramic, rich in both suspense and satire.The story revolves around the opium trade and encompasses poverty and riches, expectations and despair in a very drunk language.Imaginative capacities of Ghosh are always awesome and the way he has written his sentences with full elements of local languages here in this novel engrossed me in the plot.It consists of everything Love interests, village atrocities, betrayal, voyage, comic scenes, lots of water and manyelements.During village weddings, it was always the women who sang when the bride was torn from her parent s embraceMen remain silent..as if they were acknowledging, through their silence that they, as men, had no words to describe the pain of a child who is exiled from home How will it pass This night of parting A must read polyphonic saga from Amitav Ghosh It has been said that the Ibis, a seafaring schooner, bound from Balti to Calcutta and destined to transport opium to China lay at the heart of this story and while I agree that the Ibis is central to the tale being told, the true heart of this saga and what ultimately brings together a diverse cast of characters is opium Rich in historical detail and panoramic views of land and sea this story is set in the 1830 s just on the cusp of the opium wars in China Ghosh expertly weaves together t It has been said that the Ibis, a seafaring schooner, bound from Balti to Calcutta and destined to transport opium to China lay at the heart of this story and while I agree that the Ibis is central to the tale being told, the true heart of this saga and what ultimately brings together a diverse cast of characters is opium Rich in historical detail and panoramic views of land and sea this story is set in the 1830 s just on the cusp of the opium wars in China Ghosh expertly weaves together the back stories of a colourful cast including among many others a widowed opium farmer from the banks of the Ganges, the mulatto son of a Maryland freedwoman, the orphaned daughter of a French botanist, a bankrupt raja and an opium addict from China, while deftly imbuing the readers involvement in and concern for the fate of these people and their loved ones The narrative is peppered, most especially in the beginning, with slang, pidgin and many different dialects, which at first I found quite disconcerting and overwhelming as I struggled to understand every word Fortunately though I realized soon enough that I was able to comprehend the gist of things just fine and decided henceforth to stop fretting about it and just allow the words and dialogue to wash over me Ghosh paints a very dark picture of humanity at this time and place, showcasing how governments in this case British and Indian lord it over others of lesser means and status, both on and off board, the great ship Ibis While no doubt accurate it can be difficult to have a front row seat from which to view the often inhumane treatment that some people willingly and righteously inflict on others While I may have initially and through much of the reading of this first instalment been inclined to award this five full stars, the ending left much to be desired Ghosh leaves the reader literally drenched and clinging to the storm swept deck of the Ibis, completely unaware of the immediate fate of the very people he has spent the last 500 odd pages making you care about It is almost as though he stops telling his tale mid sentence While this may have been okay for me now, given that I had the next book in the trilogy immediately available, I can well imagine how I might have felt had I not Yes that would no doubt have quite successfully pissed me off So be forewarned and arm yourself with River of Smoke before you set sail on this journey over the black water which I highly recommend you take

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