Sunday, 16 December 2012

Book Review- Sea Of Poppies

Published May 1st 2008 by John Murray Publisher (first published 2008)
ISBN- 071956896X (ISBN13: 9780719568961)                
edition language- English
original title- Sea of Poppies
series- Ibis Trilogy #1                                 
characters- Neel Rattan Halder, Zachary Reid, Paulette Lambert, Benjamin Burnham                
setting- India
At the heart of this vibrant saga is a vast ship, the Ibis. Its destiny is a tumultuous voyage across the Indian Ocean; its purpose, to fight China’s vicious nineteenth-century Opium Wars. As for the crew, they are a motley array of sailors and stowaways, coolies and convicts.

In a time of colonial upheaval, fate has thrown together a diverse cast of Indians and Westerners, 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. 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, the exotic backstreets of China. But it is the panorama of characters, whose diaspora encapsulates the vexed colonial history of the East itself, that makes Sea of Poppies so breathtakingly alive—a masterpiece from one of the world’s finest novelists.
My Review-
History and literature are two of the most exotic subjects that exist on earth crust. Combining both of them beautifully into a story as beautiful and contemporary as this, is ‘Sea Of Poppies’. The first in the Ibis trilogy, this book encompasses the lives of a few charecters coming from different backgrounds and experiencing strife and bloodshed with their destinations unknown.
Deeti, the only female charecter is a simple woman. Her life turns upside down with her marriage to an infertile, worker from the Ghazipur Opium Factory. Furthermore, her mother-in-law drugs her on the night of her marriage when her brother-in-law impregnates her and Kabutri is born. His husband, dies and she is asked to sacrifice her life on his funeral pyre. She runs away with Kalua, an ox-man. To escape, they become servants on the Ibis.Others include, Neel Rattan Halder, Ah Fatt, Paulette and Zachary Reid. Neel Rattan Halder is a zamindar sufferring loses in opium trade with China. Selling off his lands to pay the debts is not an option for him and hence he gets tried to work as a labourer on the Ibis in Mauritius for seven years. His companion in the prison is Ah Fatt, a half-Chinese and half-Parsi opium addict. Zachary Reid is an American Sailor on the Ibis with Serang Ali being the second in the command. Paulette is a French Orphan living with Mr. And Mrs. Burnham (who is also responsible for Neel Rattan Halder’s trial). She meets Zachary Reid on a dinner and they are instantly drawn to each other. Hopeful of a better future, she boards the Ibis with Jodu and disguises herself as bengali woman, thanks to her years of close association with Jodu and her mother.
The highlights of an Amitav Ghosh novel, is always the plot. Being a bengali who has lived all over the country and travelled the world, he tends to come back to his roots and rediscover Bengal in his tales. The language is extravagant to be precise. The blend he makes out of those different cultures and dialects, it creates textures, imprints that last on your mind. Even though fictional, the story has an amazingly realistic feel to it, somewhat like it did happen to someone who lived back then, A commoner, perhaps. The story seems like a secret Ghosh’s ancestors passed on him and he conspicuously is letting the readers know of it.
 Paulette pleases me the most. She seeks inspiration from her great aunt and heads for Mauritius. She knows the aftermath of getting caught by her uncle. Yet she takes the risk. Brought up in an Indian environment has given her a whole new charecter than that she’d have had, had she been brought up in some other place. Her life being torturous and she still being hopeful is what inspires me and makes me simply adore her.
The idea of treating Ganga as the Nile and the Opium Wars dishevelling so many lives, is something that appeals me on the first place. The front cover with the pressed poppy flower on it and the back cover with the winds emanating the poppy seeds is very much in terms with the storyline. This book is defintely not a one time read. You’d read it time and again and find a competely different shade every time. I’m more than looking forward to reading it some other time and look at it in a different light. Rating Ghosh on Sea Of Poppies with five stars is a privilege.
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, and has taught at a number of institutions. River of Smoke is the second in the Ibis trilogy, which was shortlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize and The Hindu Literary Prize in 2011. The first of the trilogy, the bestselling Sea of Poppies, was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2008. Ghosh’s other works include The Circle of Reason (Prix Médicis Étranger Award), The Shadow Lines (Sahitya Akademi Award), In an Antique Land, The Calcutta Chromosome (Arthur C. Clarke Award), Dancing in Cambodia and Other Essays, Countdown, The Glass Palace (Grand Prize for Fiction at the Frankfurt International e-books Awards), The Imam and the Indian and The Hungry Tide (Best Work in English Fiction, Hutch Crossword Book Award). In 2007 he was awarded the Grinzane Cavour Prize and in 2010 the Dan David Prize.

Amitav Ghosh currently divides his time between Calcutta, Goa and Brooklyn.


Post a Comment