Sea of Poppies
By Amitav Ghosh
(Picador, Paperback, 9780312428594, 560pp.)
Publication Date: September 29, 2009
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The first in an epic trilogy, Sea of Poppies is "a remarkably rich saga . . . which has plenty of action and adventure à la Dumas, but moments also of Tolstoyan penetration--and a drop or two of Dickensian sentiment" (The Observer [London]).
At the heart of this vibrant saga is a vast ship, the Ibis. Her destiny is a tumultuous voyage across the Indian Ocean shortly before the outbreak of the Opium Wars in China. In a time of colonial upheaval, fate has thrown together a diverse cast of Indians and Westerners on board, 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. The vast sweep of this historical adventure spans the lush poppy fields of the Ganges, the rolling high seas, and the exotic backstreets of Canton. With a panorama of characters whose diaspora encapsulates the vexed colonial history of the East itself, Sea of Poppies is "a storm-tossed adventure worthy of Sir Walter Scott" (Vogue).
AMITAV GHOSH is the internationally bestselling author of many works of fiction and nonfiction, including the novel The Glass Palace, and the recipient of numerous prizes and awards. He divides his time among Kolkata and Goa, India, and Brooklyn, New York.
The transition from one part of the world to another is filled with anticipation, conflict and drama. These trips can herald life-changing transformations for families seeking out better lives. More at NPR.org
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- Discuss how the relationships between the various classes of people aboard the Ibis change throughout the novel. To what extent does the caste system affect these relationships? Which characters undergo the most significant changes?
"A wonderful book, a large ambitious novel in which extraordinary people come to life and vibrant, exotic places are memorably depicted."
"A delight . . . [Ghosh's] descriptions bring a lost world to life."
Brilliant...By the book's stormy and precarious ending, most readers will clutch it like the ship's rail awaiting, just like Ghosh's characters, the rest of the voyage to a destination unknown.
Ghosh's best and most ambitious work yet. . . . Ghosh writes with impeccable control, and with a vivid and sometimes surprising imagination.
"Ghosh, on behalf of history, is unforgiving, but his novel is also a delight."
"A storm tossed adventure worthy of Sir Walter Scott."
"Amitav Ghosh's new novel speaks in tongues, marvelously capturing the polyglot nature of its characters. . . . Sea of Poppies is marvelous, its range and authority astonishing."
Sea of Poppies is a veritable cauldron of energy intermingling with craft.