Sea of Poppies: Ibis Trilogy Book 1

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This complex, sweeping, epic adventure set in 19th-century India Sea of Poppies paints a colourful picture of life in colonial South-East Asia. Sea of Poppies is a sprawling adventure with a cast of hundreds and numerous intricate stories encompassing poverty and riches, despair and hope, and the long-fingered reach of the opium trade. He studied at the universities of Delhi and Oxford, has taught at a number of institutions and written for many magazines.

The World According to Anna. The Unfinished Novel and Other stories. From the Place in the Valley Deep in the Forest.

More books by Amitav Ghosh

Books Amitav Ghosh Sea of Poppies: Ibis Trilogy Book 1. Download Image Download Image. It's a good yarn, although intended as the first in a series of three, don't expect anything like a complete story here - Amitav Ghosh practically lets you off mid-sentence. Whilst a colourful story, the characters are s I had forgotten how annoyed I was at The Glass Palace; only to be remembered during Sea of Poppies. Whilst a colourful story, the characters are somewhat generic, and I think his discourse on colonialism was simplistic to say the least. A strangely unfulfilled read - but then, so was The Glass Palace.

Much of the focus of the book is on the devastating impact the cultivation of opium had on Indian farmers, as fields of crops were forcibly converted into poppies which were then refined and sold by the British to Chinese markets. The story opens sometime in the s, on the eve of the first Opium War between the British and Chinese.

There is a huge cast of characters and every one of them has been affected by the opium trade in some way, however indirect or trivial. The cast includes, among others, a young French woman, an Indian widow to opium, an American freedman and a disgraced former high-caste landowner, all of whom converge on the Ibis , a ship bound for a plantation in Mauritius, at the apex of the novel. For the most part I understood what was going on but there was one character whose slang was massively over the top, making his dialogue utterly incomprehensible.

It got to the stage that whenever I saw his name I would immediately skip onto the next paragraph and not even attempt to decipher his butchered attempts at English. My enjoyment and rating of this novel really fluctuated from one chapter to the next. Some parts of the novel, usually those from the perspectives of Deeti and Rajan, I flew through but others felt excruciatingly slow and were weighed down by unnecessary descriptions or information dumps about their childhood.

Simply put, there were too many characters, a problem exacerbated by the fact that several had very similar sounding names so I kept thinking one description was referring to one character before finding out a chapter or so later that it must have been referring to someone else. Even though every character was given their own mini biography upon being introduced, I never felt particularly attached to any of them. This is not the mark of a great novel.


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This really sums up my main issue which this novel. It was very informative and interesting, but it didn't make me feel anything. It was simply an informative way to pass the time and nothing more. May 03, Bfisher rated it really liked it Shelves: While spread over a sprawling cast and a wide area, Sea of Poppies in concise in its theme, the spread of bondage via the medium of opium. I had been aware previously of the opium wars that had been waged against China to force its government to cede large tranches of sovereignty.

I had not been fully aware of how linked the opium trade was to the wrecking of the Indian economy and the fortunes of the British Raj. Shame on While spread over a sprawling cast and a wide area, Sea of Poppies in concise in its theme, the spread of bondage via the medium of opium. I had never connected the dots; this book has done that for me.

It is marvelous how Ghosh has linked so many forms of bondage here: American chattel slavery, personified by Ibis, an ex-slave ship. Indentured labour - the unfortunates being transported to Mauritius. The Ghazipur opium factory is still in operation. It was visited by Kipling.

His article In an Opium Factory illustrates some of the nastier aspects of the Raj and of his character. Mar 12, Ana Ovejero rated it really liked it. Being set in India, during the Opium Wars between England and China, this monumental story tells the lives of several characters, from different castes and ideological perspectives, narrating the tumultuos times they have to survive. Amitav Ghosh is a master of storytelling, unravelling a plot in which everycharacter embarks themselves in a journey that will lead them to a ship, the Ibis.

The story begins with Deeti, a shy woman who struggles growing poppies to sell to the Opium factory.

Flood of Fire by Amitav Ghosh review – the final instalment of an extraordinary trilogy

Unhappil Being set in India, during the Opium Wars between England and China, this monumental story tells the lives of several characters, from different castes and ideological perspectives, narrating the tumultuos times they have to survive. Unhappily marriage, she is devoteed to her daughter who she wishes would have a different future. With her, we learn of Kalua's fate, an untouchable ox man who takes Deeti's husband to work everyday. In the Ibis, we find Zachary Reid, a sailor, new to the business and the only survivor of the journey that finishes in India.

With the support of the lascars, especially their leader Serang Ali, he becomes the second in command of the ship. This is to become an opium trader, but before, it will take coolies Indian workers to the Island of Mauritania. In Calcutta, we find Paulette, a French orphan, being taken care of by Mr. Bhurman, an important dealer in the opium trade. She has been brought up in an unique way, being her father a botanistin the Imperial Gardens.

She considers Jodu, a young Indian boy, as her brother. He wants to become part of the crew of the Ibis, having to face dangers and perils to do so. We also have the story of the Rajah Neel Rattan Halder, who the previously mentioned Mr Brhuman forces to sell his properties in order to pay his late father's debts.

As you can see, Ghosh introduces this diversity so as to display the multiculturality of India at the times of the colony in contrast to the imperialist view of one people talking English and having the ultimate desire to become like their English masters. This adventurous tale unravels magestically, the destinies of the different characters becoming one, sailing the Black Water, finding a future in an another land, a new home.

Ghosh's attention to character and affection for language brim to the top of every page. It was wonderful to see the opium trade from a multiplicity of perspectives, classes, idioms, and ethnicities. He does get a little too specific with his jargon at times, leaving the reader to grope around the context for possible meanings, but this is my only minor qualm.

I'd recommend this book to anyone. Aug 18, Daren rated it really liked it Shelves: I recently picked up a copy of the third in the Ibis Trilogy, Flood of Fire , and given it was about 6 years since I read Sea of Poppies, and perhaps 4 for River of Smoke , I thought I had better re-read these before the finale. I enjoy the writing of Amitav Ghosh a lot.

Sea of Poppies

I find his descriptive imagery builds up the setting and scenery as the story progresses excellent, and his depth of characters is great. While his writing s filled with words foreign to me - some common enough to be known, some no I recently picked up a copy of the third in the Ibis Trilogy, Flood of Fire , and given it was about 6 years since I read Sea of Poppies, and perhaps 4 for River of Smoke , I thought I had better re-read these before the finale. While his writing s filled with words foreign to me - some common enough to be known, some not - including in this case a lot of nautical terms, I don't find this distracts from the narrative.

If anything, this adds to the atmospheric writing, as in most cases these words are not central to the description, and not knowing exactly what they mean doesn't change the understanding of what is happening. Others may find the clutter of words distracting, or off-putting however, or be frustrated by being unable to find definitions for the unusual spelling of some of these words. And to the characters - the novel covers a wide range of main characters, and it is fair to say that this first book is the background of these characters, woven is such a way that they all end up in the same place at the same time - on the Ibis, departing Calcutta for Mauritius.

This book is almost fairytale in some of its characterisation - the good are good, and the bad are bad, but the woven stories are great. I enjoy the chapters being broken into small sections for separate characters, so we stay with each for only a few minutes of reading at at time. This allows the story to stay apace for each of them, and means we don't have to dip backwards and forwards in time, instead running over the various goings on almost concurrently. There a a lot of themes involving the characters of the book - caste is a major one, and of course the morals of the opium trade, British colonisation, and reinvention of ones self.

There are betrayals, a fall from grace, an attempt at Sati or a wife joining her dead husband on his funeral pyre , There is some well researched deception in the book too - two examples of this are the visit by Deeti to the Opium Factory, where the various buildings and their functions, as well as the workers jobs are explained in great detail; the other is on the Ibis, where the sailing, the terminology and the yelling of commands are all great.

The prison, and the life in the hold of the ship are two other settings that come to mind as richly painted scenes. All come across as very believable for 's life. I have avoided comment so far on the abrupt ending to the book. For me this isn't an annoyance although I remember it being the first time around , as the second and third books await, but it is fair to say that this book is really about starting the threads of the characters, building the background, and getting them all on their way out to sea.

It gets us out of India, and sets up for the arrival in the new settings for book 2. I gave this four stars first time around, and that hasn't changed in my second reading. Jun 12, Ashley rated it did not like it Shelves: To put this book in perspective: Not one post-it flag. The only thing I considered marking was a passage that was hilariously difficult to follow. I was always told that the more invisible the writing style, the better. Special Topics in Calamity Physics , but if I notice it and I dislike it, I suddenly find it difficult to lose myself in, or even enjoy the book.

Unfortunately, that was the case here. Nov 05, Richard rated it it was amazing Recommends it for: Three stars as a stand-alone, despite its many merits, and because of the ending; five stars if it is, indeed, installment one. Beautifully styled - extravagantly written. I've not read other works by Amitav Ghosh, s t's good to hear though it's unconfirmed, that "Sea of Poppies," is part one of a projected trilogy, because although it's a beautifully styled I'd say extravagantly written, completely engaging, well researched work of historical fiction, it closes without a satisfactory end.

I've not read other works by Amitav Ghosh, so I'm not familiar with his stylistic strategies, but "The Sea of Poppies," is written with the love of language I've come to expect from Indian novelists. Ghosh has captured both the English and the "Hing-lish," of the Victorian Age, and enriched it with a delightful and descriptive patois and pidgin. I don't know how much Mr.

Opium's Empire: Amitav Ghosh on the Ibis Trilogy

Ghosh has invented whole cloth, and how much is a result of research, but it's hugely entertaining, and perhaps near genius. Yes, it does leave you slightly at sea in terms of full understanding, but I find that to be part of the charm. I've nodded my head in befuddlement in many countries. It reminds me of the language recorded in the Booker Prize winning, Sacred Hunger" by Barry Unsworth, another beautifully written novel about fretful times. Even as a student of India, the scenes and details of "The Sea of Poppies," were new to me. Village life, city life; the tics, prejudices, and beliefs of the hoi polloi as well as the ruling classes; the facts and lore of the opium trade, the merchant life, and life at sea are all well limned and thoroughly convincing - and enchanting, though not in the whimsical sense that word is usually employed to describe.

The description of a walk through an opium refining plant is worth the price of admission.


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  5. Mr Ghosh engages all the readers' senses in his detailed portrayals of character as well as location. You can smell the ship, "Ibis," not pleasant, but I can't say as I experienced a dull moment. It's a romance, an adventure, a history all combined with a colorful cast of characters and exotic settings. May 31, Dyuti rated it really liked it Shelves: The Sea of Poppies is the first installment of the Ibis trilogy, penned by one of the foremost story-tellers of modern India, Amitav Ghosh. This is my second tryst with him, the first being The Hungry Tide which got me so emotionally engaged that I actually cried when of the characters died so I was expecting some good stuff.

    I was not disappointed. I really liked this book too. The farmers are being forced to give up growing life sustaining crops like rice and vegetables, t The Sea of Poppies is the first installment of the Ibis trilogy, penned by one of the foremost story-tellers of modern India, Amitav Ghosh. The farmers are being forced to give up growing life sustaining crops like rice and vegetables, to make way for useless opium.

    Useless to the farmers, yes, but highly profitable to the East India Company. Soon, the lives of the farmers in North Central India to the landed gentry, or the zamindars of Bengal turn upside down, with the power of that intoxicating drug, which soon brings out the best in some men, and the worst in others Thus, we join along in their lives, as they endeavour a journey to face what destiny has in store for them Even though I'm not much of a fan of stories having multiple parallel sub-plots based on different characters I always end up liking some more than the others, so feel bored when those less fortunate characters take up the space in the intervening chapters , Ghosh made each of them so endearing that I was compelled to give them my fair share of notice individually.

    He is indeed a master story-teller. Not only was the book very minutely researched, it was deeply engaging. After spending two entire nights staying awake with the book, I found myself living the story. It was that real. Also, I found some of the scenes from the book really funny. Specially the ones concerning Nob Kissen and Zachery. Of course, you'll get the jokes better if you're an Indian, or acquainted with Indian culture.

    However, the end of the story left a lot of unanswered questions. I can't wait to read the second part, and know what happens next. So, I give it a double thumbs up , and highly recommend it! Aug 26, Scarlet rated it liked it Shelves: Sea of Poppies is a great book; I just feel it wasn't the book for me. Some parts were absolutely memorable, some were not. The book features a multitude of characters - an eclectic mix of people from different backgrounds, religions, races, countries - and each has their own special place in the story.

    While I absolutely loved some of these characters, I couldn't care less about the others. Deeti's track was the standout. I didn't care much about Neel Rattan as a king, but his parts as a convict changed my mind. Zachary and Paulette were too predictable. And Baboo Nob Kissin was plain ludicrous. The book sweeps an immense landscape, whether on land, river or at sea.

    I'm not a fan of the jargon. Nearly everyone speaks in a mix of Hindustani and English, and there were so many words that I didn't understand. Deciphering the lingo was sometimes annoying.

    Sea of Poppies (Ibis Trilogy, #1) by Amitav Ghosh

    Without question, the star of the show is the Ibis. I loved how the ship connected everyone together, how it linked each of their stories with the others, how it bred some beautiful and dynamic relationships among all these seemingly disparate personas. Everything fit in seamlessly. Just when the story started to grow on me, the book ended.

    I'm more impressed with the author than the book. The amount of research that's gone into writing Sea of Poppies is stunning, and I'm in awe of Amitav Ghosh. I would love to read some of his other works The Calcutta Chromosome, maybe?? Apr 25, Arvind rated it it was amazing Shelves: Flawless and unputdownable - The unusual setting in d s, d varied cast castes too!

    All of the threads getting complete attention and as usual the meticulous Ghosh detailing leaves u spellbound in d first half. However, after d setting is established, u realise that Ghosh is telling a fantastic story with episodes showcasing every human em Flawless and unputdownable - The unusual setting in d s, d varied cast castes too! However, after d setting is established, u realise that Ghosh is telling a fantastic story with episodes showcasing every human emotion and yet bound to a plot.

    This is surely d best Historical fiction i ve read, a notch above Follett's well-loved Century trilogy. And that reminds me, thanks to d author, because a trilogy does justice to his genius; The Glass Palace felt abrupt at times. Plz brave out a couple of chapters and u will find urself enjoying d puns and ur mind will auto speak d same dialect when d character appears next. There is good comic relief too. View all 10 comments. Initial Thoughts and Part I 20 19 Dec 15, Part II 12 12 Dec 10, Sea of Poppies Reading Schedule 1 23 Oct 19, Discussion for Sea of Poppies 15 59 Aug 11, Videos About This Book.

    Amitav Ghosh is one of India's best-known writers. His most recent novel, Sea of Poppies, is the first volume of the Ibis Trilogy. The trilogy gets its names from the ship Ibis , on board which most of the main characters meet for the first time. The Ibis starts from Calcutta carrying indentured servants and convicts destined for Mauritius , but runs into a storm and faces a mutiny.

    Two other ships are caught in the same storm—the Anahita , a vessel carrying opium to Canton , and the Redruth , which is on a botanical expedition, also to Canton. While some of the passengers of the Ibis reach their destination in Mauritius, others find themselves in Hong Kong and Canton and get caught up in events that lead to the First Opium War. The novels depict a range of characters from different cultures, including Bihari peasants, Bengali Zamindars , Parsi businessmen, Cantonese boat people, British traders and officials, a Cornish botanist, and a mulatto sailor.

    In addition to their native tongues, the novels also introduce the readers to various pidgins , including the original Chinese Pidgin English and variants spoken by the lascars. The trilogy has for the most part been well received. Two major historical phenomena act as a backdrop to the plot of the Ibis trilogy—the "Great Experiment", which involved transport of indentured labour from India to work on the sugar plantations of Mauritius, and the trade of opium between India and China.