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Sea of Poppies Paperback – 16 Apr 2009

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Sea of Poppies + River of Smoke (Ibis Trilogy 2) + The Shadow Lines
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Product details

  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: John Murray (16 April 2009)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 0719568978
  • ISBN-13: 978-0719568978
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 3.5 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (99 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,512 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'Sea of Poppies Boasts a varied collection of characters to love and hate, and provides wonderfully detailed descriptions of opium production ... utterly involving and piles on tension until the very last page' -- Peter Parker, Sunday Times 'A glorious babel of a novel ... marvellously inventive ... utterly involving ... The next volume cannot come too soon' -- Sunday Times 'An utterly involving book' -- Sunday Times 'This is a panoramic adventure story, with a Dickensian energy and scope' -- Sunday Telegraph 'Ghosh's narrative is enriched with a wealth of historical detail ... as well as intricate characterisation that makes interaction among the diverse group truly absorbing' -- The Times 'There can be fewer more exciting settings for a novel than a sea-tossed sailing ship ... Ghosh piles detail upon detail in a rumbustical adventure' -- The Times 'Ripping post-colonial yarn ... Ghosh spins a fine story with a quite irresistible flow, breathing exuberant life ... an absorbing vision' -- Guardian 'A remarkably rich saga' -- Observer 'Each scene is boldly drawn, but it is the sheer energy and verve of Amitav Ghosh's storytelling that binds this ambitious medley' -- Daily Mail 'This is a corker' -- Spectator 'Ghosh turns the ship into something robustly, bawdily and indelibly real ... a plot of Dickensian intricacy' -- New York Times 'A master of fiction' -- Economist 'A richly drawn cast of characters ... gilded with expertly-mined historical detail' -- Sunday Business Post 'The fantastic Anglo-Asian language they speak is infectious, and the sombre yet uncertain conclusion leaves one eager for the second novel in the trilogy' -- Daily Telegraph 'A captivating cast ... Ghosh's saga is enriched with a blizzard of Laskari- and Hindi-derived words that add irrepressible energy to the narrative' -- Metro 'Beautifully written, this totally absorbing novel will leave you eagerly awaiting a second instalment' -- She Magazine

Book Description

Shortlisted for the Booker Prize 2008: a stunningly vibrant novel from Amitav Ghosh.

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

74 of 76 people found the following review helpful By Wynne Kelly TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 15 May 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Another tremendous piece of storytelling from Ghosh. In Sea of Poppies he brings together a disparate group of characters who all find themselves aboard the Ibis as she sails from the Hoogly River in Calcutta to Mauritius in the 1830s. The Ibis is a "blackbirder" - a ship previously used as part of the slave trade and is now used to transport opium and other supplies to China. But with the Opium Wars looming it is decided to use the ship to take indentured labourers to Mauritius.
The opium trade is brilliantly researched and shows us the devastating effect it has on the peasants forced to grow poppies rather than food. Class and caste issues loom large throughout in a society where everyone knows where they stand in the pecking order. Only on the Ibis does this hierarchy break down as the passengers realise that they are (literally) all in the same boat.
The narrative moves swiftly and rarely slackens. The story culminates in a real cliffhanger and leaves the reader wanting to know what will happen next. (Sea of Poppies is the first part of a trilogy). The characterisations are strong and vivid although I do feel that some of the things that happen are somewhat far-fetched!
Much of the dialogue is bold and bawdy and uses lots of Anglo-Indian and Hindustani terms. This added to the rich brew of this novel although I can understand that others may find it irritating.
An energetic, ambitious and immensely moving book.
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76 of 79 people found the following review helpful By William Notcutt on 6 July 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was attracted to buy this book through prior knowledge of the author, an interest in India and its history, and a professional interest in the subject of the title. Recognising that this was volume 1 of a trilogy, I realised there would be a lot of scene setting with characters establishing themselves. I thought this might be heavy going but I was wrong. I enjoyed the stories and the backgrounds that lead to them all being on the ship, the Ibis on their way to Mauritius. Throughout this wafted the sheer unpleasantness of life, the smells, the violence, the prejudice and the struggles that so many had had to overcome. Inevitably the main characters stand out as survivors with hidden depths that emerge over time. Perhaps a bit 2 dimensional as this stage.

Amitav Ghosh has done a huge amount of research into the background of life 200 years ago in India and this is reflected in the use of the vernacular languages of the time - seafaring talk, colonial English, a multitude of Indian words etc. On the one hand this was difficult to manage at first and I kept looking for a glossary (it would need to have been about 20 pages!). However, as I got used to it I found myself able to understand a lot more. My lack of understanding often matched the characters lack of comprehension of what was being said to them. Overall this mixture of language added to the flavour of the book but could be off-putting some.

It was a fast, engrossing read for me, with an unexpected cliff-hanger at the end and I am looking forward to the next instalment. I recommend it.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Quicksilver TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 11 Oct. 2009
Format: Paperback
The first thing to know about 'The Sea of Poppies' is that it's the first volume of a trilogy. Should you be the sort of person who dives straight into the narrative, without looking at the review quotes, this is far from obvious. This volume ends with a cliffhanger, and after the considerable emotional investment Ghosh demands from his readers, some people may be left frustrated at the lack of conclusion. With no prospect of a second volume any time soon, you may wish to wait a while before picking up this fabulous but demanding novel.

This is the third Ghosh novel I have read, all of them have been wonderful, but I had forgotten, that for both the previous books, I struggled to find my way in. For 'Sea of Poppies' the same is true, only more so. Ghosh likes to use a disparate selection of characters, from wildly varying backgrounds, that he gradually binds together as the story unfolds. This makes the opening of his novels feel disjointed, and I find it hard to build up any momentum when reading them. For 'SOP' this was doubly the case - a number of characters speak in dialect or pidgin, which at times I found almost impenetrable.

After a difficult opening third, the novel settles down; the major characters begin to interact with one another, and the difficult to read pidgin sequences become less frequent. But this is not the end of the linguistic gymnastics. Ghosh is clearly a master of language, and he uses the melting pot of 1830's India, to construct many wonderful jokes and double meanings from the various languages used by his characters. Unfortunately, I was reading 'SOP' for my book group, and hadn't allowed enough time to do this linguistic trickery justice. I ended up reading in something of a rush.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Eenymo on 20 Sept. 2009
Format: Paperback
It took me a relatively long time to get into this book, ie until about 1/3 of the way through it. Then I became engrossed and couldn't put it down until the end. What made me not want to put it down, however, was that all the way through there were references as to how the journey ends for the characters, and I became more and more curious to find out what would happen to them. But, really disappointingly, by the end of the book you are no further forward as to how the characters' story ends! Having read a couple of the reviews on here I have since found out it is the first of a series to come...Although I will now look out for the next book, I was left with a very disappointed feeling having reached the end.
Another thing which I found frustrating about it was not being able to understand the language used by some of the characters, and found myself quite frustrated at not being able to understand a lot of what they were all saying throughout the book (although you can guess some of it, I had to just give up trying to guess a lot of it and skip over whole sentences).
All in all I thought it was a good story, apart from these 2 things which I found really annoying.
If you are the kind of person who likes to know the end of a story instead of being left wondering, I wouldn't recommend this book until the sequels have all been published, so that you can get them straight away afterwards...
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