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Sea of Poppies [Hardcover]

Amitav Ghosh
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Oct. 7 2008 The Indian Ocean Trilogy (Book 4)

At the heart of this epic saga, set just before the Opium Wars, is an old slave ship The Ibis. Its destiny is a tumultuous voyage across the Indian Ocean; its crew a motley array of sailors, stowaways, and convicts. In a time of colonial upheaval, the ship boasts a diverse cast of Indians, coolies, and Westerners, from a bankrupt raja to a widowed village woman, from a mulatto American to an evangelical opium trader. As their family ties wash away, they come to view themselves as jahaj-bhais, or ship-brothers, and an unlikely dynasty is born. The vast sweep of this historical adventure spans the lush poppy fields of the Ganges, the rolling high seas, and the back streets of China. But it is the panorama of sharply drawn characters that brings Sea of Poppies so breathtakingly alive. The first in a trilogy, this is a masterpiece by a world-class novelist.

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'Ripping post-colonial yarn ... Ghosh spins a fine story with a quite irresistible flow, breathing exuberant life ... an absorbing vision' -- Guardian 'Sea of Poppies Boasts a varied collection of characters to love and hate, and provides wonderfully detailed descriptions of opium production ... utterly involving and piles on tension until the very last page' -- Peter Parker, Sunday Times 'Ghosh's narrative is enriched with a wealth of historical detail ... as well as intricate characterisation that makes interaction among the diverse group truly absorbing' -- The Times 'A richly drawn cast of characters ... gilded with expertly-mined historical detail' -- Sunday Business Post --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Amitav Ghosh was born in Calcutta and grew up in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and India. He studied at the universities of Delhi and Oxford, has taught at a number of institutions and written for many magazines. River of Smoke is the second in the Ibis trilogy, the first of which, the bestselling Sea of Poppies, was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2008.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rich, beautiful, engaging Feb. 10 2009
This rich novel--the first in a trilogy--brings us to the plains of the Ganges during the beginnings of the Opium war, where the lives of a series of fascinating and diverse characters intersect: a wealthy, well-educated Raja, a young widow who grows poppies on a small plot of land, a British businessman who trades in opium, an American sailor, a group of culturally diverse and linguistically challenging sailors from around the Indian Ocean, a young French woman who grew up in India with her botanist father, a foul-mouthed and envious first-mate, and many many more. Ghosh invites us on a journey in time, in place, in language, and true to his previous works, it is so rich in detail, so convincing, so engaging that one truly feels they have been transported into another world. The reader, however, has to accept his proposal of entering into another culture (the culture of the trading ships in particular) and, similar to a journey to a foreign land, to not always understand the details of what is being said or done, but instead gather clues from the rest of the action and atmosphere. What is as much a tour de force--though so subtle as to be remarked only by those with a predisposition to thinking about such issues--is the way he evokes through his characters themes such as habitus, embodiment, identity and other concepts dear to anthropologists. As his characters migrate, change caste, fall or rise in social status and are generally confronted with sometimes radical shifts in their circumstances, they must also adapt their habits, diet, language, clothing, social interactions, perception of skin colour, and indeed their names. It must be emphasized, however, that Ghosh never is didactic (unlike some authors). Read more ›
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A rollicking read April 2 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I was surprised by the novel's Indian setting however, after reading, it makes perfect sense. Much of the opium exported by the British Empire originated from India. The characters include a mulatto sailor, a wealthy Indian land owner, a British sea merchant specializing, an Indian serf and her cart driving lover, a daughter of a famous British botanist and a Chinese opium addict of mixed race origins. It takes Mr. Ghosh quite a number of pages to introduce all his characters. The novel begins with the frantic fight for survival aboard an old slave ship, the "Ibis", as it makes its way from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean where it will begin new duties unknown to the occupants. Then comes the introduction of our East Asian cast of characters. I wondered about the number of characters and the detailed description however, they all come together on the ship where our story began. I found the book almost impossible to put down for the last hundred pages and then he ends with a hook that would rival any episode on television meant to bring me back for the next season. I cannot wait for the next installment to be published.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A talented reader reads a talented writer June 16 2009
By Yuri H
Format:Audio CD
I will not cover the book itself, I'll just add that it is as good as the other reviews say it is: fun, fascinating and very engaging. I just wanted to add my review of the audio book as read by Phil Gigante.

Often times a great audio book can be spoiled by a terrible reader, but in this case, I believe Mr. Gigante, adds greatly to what already is a a feast for the imagination. His great voice and clear diction makes it a fun listen, especially considering how much of the text is non-english. He brings the characters to life with care and attention and is able to remain in character through out the book. This is an A+ effort and I highly recommend it as a fun bit of historical escapism. I'm glad I had a chance to hear it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Pure reading pleasure Oct. 3 2010
Reading the Sea of Poppies is like watching numerous threads being unspooled, each of a different colour and composition. To picture these varied strands being interwoven into one unified tapestry seems impossible at first. As I read on I realized it is possible but only in hands as skillful and deft as Mr. Ghoshs. He takes the lives of vastly diverse people and binds them together irrevocably and in so singular a manner that you, as a reader, are led to believe that it could happen in no other way. The epic scope would seem daunting to the most gifted of writers but Mr. Ghosh not only does justice to the saga but raises it to heights that few other novels have climbed. Brilliant!!!
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