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Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh

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Vanessa
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Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh

Post by Vanessa » Sat January 31st, 2009, 11:43 am

Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh

Synopsis

At the heart of this epic saga, set just before the Opium Wars, is an old slaving-ship, The Ibis. Its destiny is a tumultuous voyage across the Indian Ocean, its crew a motley array of sailors and stowaways, coolies and convicts.

In a time of colonial upheaval, fate has thrown together a truly diverse cast of Indians and Westerners, from a bankrupt Raja to a widowed villager, from an evangelical English opium trader to a mulatto American freedman. As their old family ties are washed away they, like their historical counterparts, come to view themselves as jahaj-bhais or ship-brothers. An unlikely dynasty is born, which will span continents, races and generations.

The vast sweep of this historical adventure spans the lush poppy fields of the Ganges, the rolling high seas, and the exotic backstreets of China. But it is the panorama of characters, whose diaspora encapsulates the vexed colonial history of the East itself, which makes Sea of Poppies so breathtakingly alive – a masterpiece from one of the world’s finest novelists
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http://www.ibistrilogy.com/



My Thoughts

I have just finished this exciting sea-faring historical adventure story set in 1838, on the eve of the Opium Wars between China and the British India Company.

I thought it was a fabulous and wonderfully written read. I was completely immersed and have had a whale of a time accompanying such colourful and well defined characters on their travels. The style of writing and the language used completely transported me into the time and setting of the book. The colloquialisms and dialect take a little persevering with, but there is a glossary on the website which I found very helpful. This epic tale is fast paced and it is a book which I found so hard to put down.

In the first part of the story I met the characters at the start of their journey on the banks of the Ganges, in the second I took a trip down the river and in the third I was experiencing conditions at sea. The reader is left on something of a cliffhanger at the end and very much in suspense. I am, therefore, now eagerly awaiting the next instalment in this trilogy!

Highly recommended.

Rating: 5/5
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Books are mirrors, you only see in them what you already have inside you ~ The Shadow of the Wind

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EC2
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Post by EC2 » Sat January 31st, 2009, 1:13 pm

Many thanks for the review Vanessa. Sounds worth adding to the TBR.
Can I ask how long it is? It might well be suitable for my hard to please other half.
Les proz e les vassals
Souvent entre piez de chevals
Kar ja li coard n’I chasront

'The Brave and the valiant
Are always to be found between the hooves of horses
For never will cowards fall down there.'

Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal

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Vanessa
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Post by Vanessa » Sat January 31st, 2009, 3:51 pm

It was sent to me as a proof copy, but it's actually the hardback! I believe the paperback is due out in April. My copy has 468 pages.
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Books are mirrors, you only see in them what you already have inside you ~ The Shadow of the Wind

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Post by diamondlil » Sat January 31st, 2009, 10:36 pm

I had this on my TBR list without realising it's historical setting. Thanks for the review.
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EC2
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Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh

Post by EC2 » Wed July 28th, 2010, 11:57 am

There are many books I give five star ratings because they are well written and I have thoroughly enjoyed them, but even so, not all five star books are equal. Sea of Poppies deserves that extra sparkle on its rating and has entered my 'hall of fame' reads with flags flying.

Here's a condensed summary from the inside flap:
'On an old slaving ship named the Ibis, fate has thrown together a truly diverse cast of Indians and Westerners. The motley crew of sailors, coolies, and convicts include a bankrupt raja, a Chinese opium addict, a lissom French runaway and a mulatto freedman from Baltimore. As their old family ties are washed away, they come to view themselves as jahaj-bhais or ship-brothers. An unlikely dynasty is born which will span continents, races, and generations.
The backdrop to this historical venture is the Opium Wars, when the British East India Company lured China into a fatal dependency on opium from its Indian territories.

About 2/3 of the novel takes place away from the Ibis, setting up how the various characters come to be on board as she sails for Mauritus with a cargo of coolies. The characters, their stories and the geographical and social backgrounds are particularly well painted, and although there is a large cast, it is easy to identify who is who and to become involved with every single one of them - and that is rare in storytelling. There is a lot of pidgin English and slang in the novel, but I found it enriching and at times amusing and entertaining. There is an Indian sailor with a very dubious past called Serang Ali, who takes second mate, American mulatto Zachary Reid under his wing. Their exchanges, with Serang Ali speaking Pidgin, are high entertaining and one gets the jist.
'A week later, Serang Ali accosted Zachary again. 'Malum Zikri! Captin-bugger blongi poo-shoo-foo. He hab got plenty sick! Need one piece dokto. No can chow-chow tiffin. Allo time do chhee-chhee, pee-pee. Plenty smelly in Captin cabin.'
Throughout the novel there are laugh out loud moments, indignation on behalf of the character moments and edge of the seat moments. There is high adventure, but not of the throw away James Bond kind. It's all character driven even in the midst of the action. A particularly strong scene for me was of an Indian wife going to fetch her unwell husband from the hellish interior of an opium factory. The description of the workings of the place and the hell for those involved in the toil was vivid and disturbing.
My only cavil with the novel is that it is obviously set to be part of a larger work and it ends in mid-stream, or perhaps that should be mid-sea. There is no real ending, more of a 'to be continued.' I found this slightly annoying, but it doesn't detract from the absolute brilliance of the story telling.
Readers who have enjoyed The Far Pavillions and are at home with M.M. Kaye and Dorothy Dunnett will find this a very rewarding read I think.
5 stars plus sparkles. :-)
Last edited by EC2 on Wed July 28th, 2010, 1:53 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Les proz e les vassals
Souvent entre piez de chevals
Kar ja li coard n’I chasront

'The Brave and the valiant
Are always to be found between the hooves of horses
For never will cowards fall down there.'

Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal

www.elizabethchadwick.com

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Libby
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Post by Libby » Wed July 28th, 2010, 12:29 pm

It sounds fascinating. This is definitely one that's going on my list.

MTA: I just discovered this: clickie

So it looks like there will be three books in total.
Last edited by Libby on Wed July 28th, 2010, 12:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.
By Loyalty Bound - the story of the mistress of Richard III.

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Vanessa
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Favourite HF book: Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell!
Preferred HF: Any
Location: North Yorkshire, UK

Post by Vanessa » Wed July 28th, 2010, 2:16 pm

This already has a thread here.

Glad you enjoyed it as much as me, EC. I definitely wish the author would hurry up and publish the next one - in spring I believe.
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Books are mirrors, you only see in them what you already have inside you ~ The Shadow of the Wind

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Michy
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Post by Michy » Wed July 28th, 2010, 2:19 pm

[quote=""EC2""]My only cavil with the novel is that it is obviously set to be part of a larger work and it ends in mid-stream, or perhaps that should be mid-sea. There is no real ending, more of a 'to be continued.' I found this slightly annoying, but it doesn't detract from the absolute brilliance of the story telling.
[/quote]

I guess that's one way of promoting sales of the sequel, huh? :p

I have this one on my library list. Sounds very good!

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Post by Misfit » Wed July 28th, 2010, 7:37 pm

Thanks EC, I'll have to check this out.
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EC2
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Post by EC2 » Wed July 28th, 2010, 7:44 pm

[quote=""Vanessa""]This already has a thread here.

Glad you enjoyed it as much as me, EC. I definitely wish the author would hurry up and publish the next one - in spring I believe.[/quote]

Yikes, I'd missed that one AND I'd posted on it - duh. I have the memory of a goldfish. Please mods, can you amalgamate the thread?
Agree with your views on in Vanessa - what a wonderful read.
Les proz e les vassals
Souvent entre piez de chevals
Kar ja li coard n’I chasront

'The Brave and the valiant
Are always to be found between the hooves of horses
For never will cowards fall down there.'

Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal

www.elizabethchadwick.com

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