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Although there is a lot of fairly graphic sex, violence and R rated material, it doesn't come across as X rated. It is couched in kind of a conservative and even naive approach to the activities that are going on. It seems to me that Ghosh's Indian roots and background come out more here, especially in the way he portrays sex and relationships, than in some of the obvious ways such as his phrasing and use of certain words, etc. His English is just excellent. But the almost scholarly and then practiced talk about crude things going on seems embarrassing to him but necessary to include to make it all appropriately told.

I would be interested to get a gay man's take on this. I have a lot of other thoughts that would be fun to discuss with someone who has recently read the book. Much of my judgments are held until I read the next two books. This could end out to be one of the top historical fiction series ever written. I think the rave reviews are deserved and that this book is a huge accomplishment. I'm looking forward to reading book two. I've searched the internet for updates on the second book. If you have one, please let me know. I wish it were available now.

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View all 19 comments. Nov '09 Sea of Poppies is the first book in the Ibis trilogy and I simply can't wait to read the second. Unfortunately Ghosh took four years to write this one and according to an interview hasn't even started the next ones yet. I do hope he doesn't leave us hanging for too long because this book definitely leaves you wanting to read more. Ghosh is a fantastic author and I truly want to read more of his books.

I feel he had a lot of fun with this one more so then his others. Set just before the Opium Wars, the book takes you on a journey through India, drawing people from all over to bring them to the ship - the Ibis. Sea of Poppies introduces you to the cast of characters that will propel the rest of the trilogy onwards through the coming journey. Each of them some how, has been touched by the poppy seed, the opium trade which the British colonists forced India into producing.

The British are represented by Ghosh as unsympathetic buffoons in a way that it a little too much like a caricature but I think this was his desired effect. He did not wish to give them personality or individuality. As a whole, they are not to be liked. Immediately upon starting this novel, you are wrapped in the smells, the touch and the language of India.

Ghosh seems to have swallowed a dictionary and has given each character their own way of speaking.


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The language of the lascars I found to be a bit confusing at first but after a while you find yourself immersed. Such words become self explanatory in the context used and each add a little bit of colour to the way Ghosh paints his story. Each character has a different way of speaking — from educated English, Bhojpuri, Hindustani, Lascari among others. I really enjoyed this book, enough to give it a generous five stars. If GR had half stars perhaps it would have been a 4.

I think it will be a magnificent trilogy and I am just dying to read more. Maybe I will have to settle with reading the other books by Ghosh in the meanwhile. Apr 28, Chrissie rated it it was ok Shelves: This book really disappointed me. I have always loved Ghosh's books, so I would have to call this a big let down. The book needs a glossary listing Indian terms.

Perhaps the dialog was made more authentic through these terms, but it also became impossible to understand the what was being said. Most paragraphs had terms that were not defined - neither in Wikipedia or any dictionary I could find on the net.

Ibis trilogy

Only a few of the terms can be found on the net. A few I knew from previous reading, but MA This book really disappointed me. This was very annoying and wrecked the book for me. I did not enjoy the plot.

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

In addition,, the book synopsis here on GoodReads is not correct. The purpose of the voyage of the schooner Ibis was NOT to fight the 19th century's opium wars. Finally, I could not become attached to any of the characters since often I had difficulty understanding what they were saying. A big disappointment from Ghosh. Read his earlier books; they are very good. Jul 21, Praj rated it it was ok. The biscuits are soggy, sandwiches are musty and the Darjeeling brew is insipid. Ghosh enthusiasts would decidedly contradict this retort labeling my Machiavellian analysis as act of lunacy or vernacularism as this book was highly recommended by several 'neighborhood bookworms'.

View all 3 comments. Jul 16, Whitaker rated it really liked it Shelves: I thoroughly enjoyed this trilogy for its rich historical detail and its playfulness with language. Ghosh writes of the opium trade and the First Opium War. The opium trade and the First Opium War are the primary I thoroughly enjoyed this trilogy for its rich historical detail and its playfulness with language.

The opium trade and the First Opium War are the primary focus of the trilogy, and the story and its characters are shoehorned into a structure designed to cover all the main effects of the trade and the war, and especially its effect on Indians. Each instalment of the trilogy covers one key part of the opium trade and war. And, notwithstanding the dozens of subplots, in each instalment there are two main stories fitted into a setting that best allows Ghosh to talk about that part of the trade and war that the instalment is dealing with.

The two main stories act as a counterpoint to each other: The entire trilogy can be diagrammed as follows: Sea of Poppies Historical focus: The cultivation and manufacture of opium forced upon Indian peasants by the East India Company Main story 1: Love story of Deeti and Kahlua Main story 2: The smuggling and trading of opium in China, in particular the Parsi merchant community in China selling their small quota of opium alongside the far greater trades allotted to the English Main story 1: Love story of Robin Chinnery and Jacqua Main story 2: The First Opium War and the seizure of Hong Kong, in particular the Indian soliders that helped to fight the opium wars against the Chinese Main story 1: Kesri's experiences as a solider in the First Opium War I loved all the history but how you feel about the trilogy, especially its second and third instalments, will depend greatly on how you feel about the historical taking precedence over the purely fictional.

The artificiality of the structure is less evident in the first. But if you go into the second and third volumes expecting to see the stories of the characters in the first volume continue and unfold, you are going to be sorely disappointed. As the diagram indicates, the key characters differ in each instalment and while Ghosh does more or less resolve the plot threads of each of the characters he introduces, these can be dealt with in a rushed and perfunctory fashion.

For example, Robin Chinnery, a main focus in the second novel, is dealt with in a single line in the last novel. Other characters like Jodhu and Serang Ali, so important in the first novel, are reintroduced in the last novel but in an entirely half-hearted manner. In a sense, the characters are the backdrop to the history rather than the other way round.

For all its historical focus, the driving force behind his tale is his anger about the greed and rapacity of capitalism. In the light of Trump, a presidential candidate whose main boast was wanting to be greedy for America, the following choice quotes feel a little too terrifyingly relevant to our time: It would end only when Lord Vishnu descended to the earth in his avatar as the destroyer, Kalki, to bring in a new cycle of time, Satya Yuga, the age of truth. Ma Taramony had often said that in order to hasten the coming of the Kalki a great host of beings would appear on earth, to quicken the march of greed and desire.

That is why the English have come to China and to Hindustan: Today that great devouring has begun. It will end only when all of humanity, joined together in a great frenzy of greed, has eaten up the earth, the air, the sky. That view of capitalism is one I can definitely sympathise with. Highly recommended, but with the above caveats.

Jul 31, Nancy Oakes rated it really liked it Recommends it for: Very broad in scope, Sea of Poppies is nonetheless an enchanting read, one that had me stopping normal routine so as to get back to it every time I had to put it down. Before you read this, however, you should know that it is designed as the first entry of what will eventually be a trilogy based on the ship Ibis and a group of people who, for whatever reason, found themselves aboard her.

I say this because without understanding this point, you may feel a bit cheated by the ending of the novel. Th Very broad in scope, Sea of Poppies is nonetheless an enchanting read, one that had me stopping normal routine so as to get back to it every time I had to put it down. This was the first book I've read by Amitav Ghosh, and while he's writing his second book in the trilogy, I'm going to backtrack and read some of his other work. In Sea of Poppies, the story is divided into three sections: Land, River, Sea, moving the story along from the introduction to all of these very colorful characters to their assembly and journey on the Ibis which used to carry slaves and now transports workers and convicts to Mauritius.

The characters range from a young widow whose fate would have been to join her husband in death in sati, or throwing herself into his funeral pyre, which would elevate the status of her husband's family, to a group of lascars who will crew the Ibis, headed by a chief who seems to have his own agenda as regards the second mate, one Zachary Reid, a freedman from Baltimore. There are also a group of people being transported to work in Mauritius, many of whom were caught up in the cycle of being forced to grow poppies for the British opium trade with China. There is also a raja who has been brought down via a cocked-up set of false charges, and a half-Chinese opium addict who is the raja's cell mate in the brig.

Others rounding out the list are the daughter of a French botanist who came late to colonial propriety, and one Baboo Nob Kissin, who feels that he has another's soul inside of him. Each one of these people has his or her own story, and these are woven into the fabric of the novel as the tale progresses. Underlying most of their stories is the hard and fast fact of British colonialism in India -- and all of its accompanying hypocrisy and self-imposed superiority.

Sea of Poppies is a wonderful tale on a grand scale and I can recommend it very highly. Don't get frustrated with the ending, though; look at it as the start of an epic adventure. We are no different from the Pharaohs or the Mongols: It is this pretence of virtue, I promise you, that will never be forgiven by history. There are the producers, users, and traffickers, all with complex mo "The truth is, sir, that men do what their power permits them to do.

There are the producers, users, and traffickers, all with complex motivations and needs, and then there are the untold thousands simply swept up by the tide of the opium trade. Ghosh's magisterial novel connects the lives of a disparate set of characters, ultimately placing them on board a ship, the Ibis , headed for Mauritius. While the plot is too complex for neat summary, a resonant theme is transformation and rebirth. Several characters experience precipitous falls from grace and yet also find redemption.

The central character, Deeti, is a simple woman who finds she has more strength than anyone ever expected, while another character, rajah Neel Rattan Halder, finds friendship and solace in the most unexpected of companions. Ghosh's characterization and pacing are superb, not to mention he wields effortless control over imagery and language. I never found myself growing impatient at the lyrical descriptive passages; instead, these somehow illuminate the very souls of the characters. Having recently come back from a trip to India, I was once again intoxicated by the sights, sounds, and smells of India as depicted in this gorgeous novel.

Halfway through the novel, I discovered Sea of Poppies was the first novel in a trilogy. At this writing, the second novel has yet to be published. I'm hoping, of course, to find the second novel as rewarding as the first. I'm also hoping another audiobook version narrated by Phil Gigante will be produced, for he is an excellent narrator for this work.

For all the hype it has generated, this book was sorely disappointing. It is a very fast read, and a good adventure yarn From a booker prize nominee, I expected something more. The characters lack depth. The bad guys are evil, the good guys good. And some, like Nob Kissin Pander, are ludicrous. The story goes at a breakneck pace without stopping for a moment to consider, rather like a well directed bollywood movie only the songs and dance numbers were missing! There is a lack For all the hype it has generated, this book was sorely disappointing. There is a lack of atmosphere.

All the while I found myself comparing this novel to its disadvantage to Paul Scott's The Raj Quartet , which was poignant in its capture of the dying days of the British Raj. The story stops too abruptly. View all 7 comments. Sep 30, Christopher rated it it was ok. A group of random individuals end up on a former slave ship as it makes it way from India to China during the opening years of the Opium Wars, in the first half of the 19th century.

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.


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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. 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. 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.

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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. 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.

Sea of Poppies: Ibis Trilogy Book 1 (Ibis Trilogy) [Paperback]

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. 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. 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.

More books by Amitav Ghosh

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. 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.

The British played a significant part in both of these. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. This article needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. January Learn how and when to remove this template message.

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