Sea of Poppies
By Amitav Ghosh
(Picador USA, Paperback, 9780312428594, 543pp.)
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 a 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"").
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?