Review: SEA OF POPPIES by Amitav Ghosh

Thanks to Minibookexpo for the opportunity to read and review this book!

Set in India just before the opium war with China, Sea of Poppies centers on the lives of various characters and the challenges which in one way or another lead them to be shipmates on the Ibis, a large vessel which is about to set sail for distant lands. The Ibis was once a slave-ship, but was revamped to transport indentured servants and opium.

We meet and get to know Deeti a woman whose husband suffers from the affects of the drug they depend on for their livelihood, Kalua, a simple man with simple needs, Neel Rattan Halder, a spoiled, wealthy land owner with complicated needs, Paulette, a brave young adventuress, and many more. Though there are a lot characters, it’s not difficult to keep track of them because their lives are explored in detail.

As the circumstances of each character slowly start to intersect with one another, the reader becomes aware of the impending departure of the big ship and the reason each person has for being aboard. Life on the Ibis is dangerous and complicated but a rhythm develops where everyone knows their role and duties and so is able to get by – unless the rules are broken. What happens then is a ‘sit on the edge of your seat’ type action.

Occasionally the dialogue is difficult to understand, as it’s a mixture of British and Indian dialects. For example, on page 44:

“In the old days the Rascally bobachee-connah was the best in the city. No fear of pishpash and cobbily-mash at the Rascally table.”

There is a glossary at the back of the book; however, it is not exhaustive. And even then, if I had stopped to look up every word I didn’t understand it would have interrupted the flow of the story. On the other hand, the language gave the story a very authentic feel and it wasn’t so pervasive that I didn’t understand what was going on.

This novel has many layers and is rich in detail. Considering that Sea of Poppies is the first volume in a trilogy, the ending was wrapped up quite well. It didn’t leave too many open questions about the events that culminated on board the Ibis, but it did leave threads to be picked up in the second book. And there lies my only real unanswered question with this novel…when will the second book be published?


Cindy on March 17, 2009 at 12:13 PM said...

Sounds like a really good book. I just love the cover it looks so pretty.

Myckyee on March 17, 2009 at 6:15 PM said...

Hey Cindy, it was a great book! I liked the cover too, it was different.

Staci on March 18, 2009 at 1:19 PM said...

I loved your review and it sounds like a fascinating book. Trilogy? I love trilogies!!!

Myckyee on March 19, 2009 at 10:12 PM said...

Thanks, Staci! I enjoy trilogies too, even better if they are more.

Sadako on March 21, 2009 at 6:39 PM said...

The history of opium is so fascinating, as are books that take place in India. This looks great.

Myckyee on March 22, 2009 at 6:37 PM said...

Sadako, you're right, the history of opium is very interesting especially because it was at that this time a marketable good! Thank you for your comment!


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