Friday, December 30, 2011

Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh

A Man Booker Prize Nominee
Author: Amitav Ghosh
Publisher-Format: New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008. 515 pages
Audio book Brilliance Audio, 18 hrs, 14 min
Narrator Phil Gigante
Subject: Opium wars, colonialism
Setting: India, Canton
Series: Ibis Trilory
Genre: historical fiction
Source: public library

I just finished this fantastic book, and now I'm panting to get to the next one. I really couldn't stop long enough to take notes, so I just decided to let go and wallow in the gorgeous language, and the wonderful characters. I'm certainly having some love-hate relations with a couple of them, and really want to see how this story progresses. The story is set in India, and is a good exposè of the British Empire and its control of the Opium trade. One of the main characters is a young mixed race sailor from Baltimore, who has chosen to make his fortune sailing on this gorgeous Baltimore clipper ship. His rise to a place of some power in the company provides a backdrop for several other personality driven story lines.

The reader gets a really good picture of how the British used the Indian caste system to keep the natives under control. However, they also needed workers in the fields, and forced many lower caste individuals into what amounted to slavery, loaded them onto a sailing ship (the Ibis) and headed for the Mauritius Islands. I was so fascinated with this journey that I went to Google Maps to see where the Mauritus Islands were. There are wicked way out there in the middle of no-where. The voyage reminds me somewhat of "Amistad" with enslaved people totally at the mercy of a gang of hoodlums who will exercise power any time they can.

I really have to let this settle before I can write a proper review, but I highly recommend listening to this in addition to reading it. I literally did both. I would read a chapter as I listened to it. The audio was well synchronized to the book chapters, making it very easy to keep track. The incredible voice of Phil Gigante the narrator, and his ability to speak the difference languages and dialects really added a dimension of pleasure to the experience.

Sea of Poppies is volume #1 of the Ibis Trilogy. I can't wait to get the next one "River of Smoke".

1 comment:

  1. I read this sometime ago and loved it. I also liked River of Smoke so very much. You are in for a treat.


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