Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Book Review- River Of Smoke

Hardcover, 522 pages
Published June 1st 2011 by John Murray Publishers (first published January 1st 2010)
                       ISBN- 0719568986 (ISBN13: 9780719568985)                
edition language- English
original title-River of Smoke
                                 series- Ibis Trilogy #2                                 
setting- Canton (China)
literary awards- Man Asian Literary Prize Nominee (2011)

In September 1838, a storm blows up on the Indian Ocean and the Ibis, a ship carrying a consignment of convicts and indentured laborers from Calcutta to Mauritius, is caught up in the whirlwind. River of Smoke follows its storm-tossed characters to the crowded harbors of China. There, despite efforts of the emperor to stop them, ships from Europe and India exchange their cargoes of opium for boxes tea, silk, porcelain and silver. Among them are Bahram Modi, a wealthy Parsi opium merchant out of Bombay, his estranged half-Chinese son Ah Fatt, the orphaned Paulette and a motley collection of others whose pursuit of romance, riches and a legendary rare flower have thrown together. All struggle to cope with their losses—and for some, unimaginable freedoms—in the alleys and crowded waterways of 19th-century Canton.

My Review-


So, where were we? The Ibis landed in the island of Mareech orMauritius right? In this installment of what will be called the Ibis trilogy, the voyage of the charecters continue. After quite a few lives lost, and some bloodshed the Ibis reaches it’s destination. Quite a few charecters are no more mentioned and some are new additions. In all the following charecters take the center stage.

  • Bahram Modi - Parsi Merchant from Bombay and father of Ah Fat
  • Chi Mei - A Cantonese Boat woman who is the lover of Bahram Modi
  • Ah Fat - Son of Bahram Modi and Chi Mei
  • Neel - Munshi of Bahram Modi
  • Vico - Bahram Modi’s purser
  • Zadig Bey - Armenian watch maker and friend of Bahram Modi
  • Fitcher Penrose - A Scottish botanist on an expedition to collect rare plants in China
  • Paulette Lambert - Daughter of a French botanist who accompanies Mr. Fitcher on his expedition.
  • Robert Chinnery - Artist, Paulette’s friend and son of George Chinnery
  • Commissioner Lin Zexu - The incorruptible Chinese mandarin who is appointed by the Emperor of China to put an end to opium trading.

Now that we know who’s who lets get back to the story. Neel Rattan and Ah Fatt have escaped the Ibis. Paulette has taken a step towards a fresh beginning to her life and Deeti is mentioned only in the start and briefly towards the end. The pace of the story is brisk in the start ( briskier than Sea Of Poppies, i.e.) and slows down after a while. After that every page is sheer disappointment. As I said, I wanted to hear more about Deeti. I wanted Zachary Reid to be there and see the love between him and Paulette bloom. I wanted more of Jodu too. I do not have problems with the language. I wanted a better story and the elimination of the charecters were unecessary too. The language has to be brilliant when Amitav Ghosh writes, but the storyline is the backbone. The second one in the Ibis trilogy is disappointment.

But hey, the start was brilliant and the author is brilliant too. The end I believe will be great too.He has to be back with a bang. I’m still looking forward to the third book.
About The Author-

Amitav Ghosh is one of India's best-known writers. His books include The Circle of Reason, The Shadow Lines, In An Antique Land, Dancing in Cambodia, The Calcutta Chromosome, The Glass Palace, Incendiary Circumstances, The Hungry Tide. His most recent novel, Sea of Poppies, is the first volume of the Ibis Trilogy.

Amitav Ghosh was born in Calcutta in 1956. He studied in Dehra Dun, New Delhi, Alexandria and Oxford and his first job was at the Indian Express newspaper in New Delhi. He earned a doctorate at Oxford before he wrote his first novel, which was published in 1986.

The Circle of Reason won the Prix Medicis Etranger, one of France's top literary awards, and The Shadow Lines won the Sahitya Akademi Award and the Ananda Puraskar. The Calcutta Chromosome won the Arthur C. Clarke Award for 1997 and The Glass Palace won the Grand Prize for Fiction at the Frankfurt International e-Book Awards in 2001. The Hungry Tide won the Hutch Crossword Book Prize in 2006. In 2007 Amitav Ghosh was awarded the Grinzane Cavour Prize in Turin, Italy. Amitav Ghosh has written for many publications, including the Hindu, The New Yorker and Granta, and he has served on the juries of several international film festivals, including Locarno and Venice. He has taught at many universities in India and the USA, including Delhi University, Columbia, the City University of New York and Harvard. He no longer teaches and is currently writing the next volume of the Ibis Trilogy.

He is married to the writer, Deborah Baker, and has two children, Lila and Nayan. He divides his time between Kolkata, Goa and Brooklyn.



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