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4.4 out of 5 stars15
4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 7 November 2001
Many people judge a book by its first page. If they are not hooked within a line or two, they'll put it down and may not bother to pick it up again. Smoking Poppy had me captive from the first sentence. It set the scene and the emotion for the entire book. Graham Joyce has taken a complex story and told it in a style that is both sophisticated and utterly simple. His characters are agonisingly, beautifully real, with real flaws and true inner strengths. Supernatural elements fit naturally into the story;credibility is not stretched, though imagination can run riot. The book works beautifully on every level.
Smoking Poppy is about a man, Daniel Innes, who gives his life and his love utterly and uncompromisingly to his family who reject him just as utterly for reasons he cannot begin to understand. When his ex-wife calls him with the news that their daughter Charlie is in a Tawanese jail awaiting sentence, twenty years or execution, for drug smuggling he knows he must go out there,even though she has not spoken to him for two years. He does not know just what he is going to. Against his wishes he is accompanied by Mick, a team-mate from his local pub quiz, who has decided that Charlie is innocent,regardless of the facts and that they are going to prove just that, whatever it takes, and Daniel's estranged son. If I were to tell you any more I might spoil the story for you, so I won't, other than that it made me laugh and cry often as I became more and more absorbed by the events that unfolded.
The thing I most liked about this book was that it managed to switch off my analytical brain and allow me to simply read and absorb. For years I've read books and watched films and dramas, noting key moments, clues and hints of what was to follow. Endings are rarely surprising and I tend to leave the room during the action scenes of films when the drama is building up because I already know where it's leading and get bored or annoyed at all the banging and crashing. With books I often keep turning pages unread until the plot picks up again. It has really spoiled my pleasure in stories that others find totally absorbing. This book broke the jinx. Nothing was quite what I expected from the first page on. The people behaved in character, yet were still unpredictable. The story opened up new worlds, new possibilities. I know so many Dannys, so many Micks in my life, perhaps because my home is so near to Leicester where the characters live their lives. Now I'm looking at these men with fresh eyes.
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on 5 April 2004
'Smoking Poppy' tells the story of Danny, a recently separated electrician estranged from both his children. His life is suddenly turned upside down when his daughter Charlie is arrested for drugs smuggling in Thailand. So begins a quest to find her, with the help of his supposedly hapless drinking buddy Mick and devoutly christian son Phil.
Things don't start off particularly promisingly. The main problem is the character of Danny, who isn't particularly likeable or believable. Supposedly a working class, honest to goodness bloke who's worked hard to send his daughter to Cambridge, his conversation is peppered with unrealistically flowery language - bizarrely, he uses the word 'apropos' every couple of pages. And this man who frequently describes how he feels at odds with his children's world, yet also describes more than one man as 'beautiful' - a very modern attitude for such a character.
The other problem is that the first part of the book is very slow, with little action to keep you gripped. It seems like a love letter to Thailand's landscape, which is very well done, but not necessarily that appropriate; fine if you want to read a travel novel, but isn't this a thriller?
However, 'Smoking Poppy' improves significantly halfway through. To reveal why could spoil the plot, so I'll simply say that the most interesting relationship in the book is opened up, and things begin to move at a more exciting pace. Something else which saves this novel from becoming dull is Mick. The failed wideboy with a heart of gold is far more likeable than Danny, and more three-dimensional.
This could have been brilliant with a better central character and 50 or so pages chopped out of the opening section. If you like travel novels, the atmospheric description of Thailand will definitely appeal, and if you're a patient reader, this is definitely worth perservering with.
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on 13 July 2006
Joyce's prose is lyrical and concise. His attention to detail is acute. His character portrayal is empathic to the point of being telepathic. The plot of 'Smoking Poppy' is so rivetting that I read this book in a single sitting, after which my mind was reeling with the impact of a vivid and harrowing journey. If you have ever watched the sun rise after staying up all night at a festival, if you have ever borne witness to friends or loved ones losing their minds to psychosis, education or religion - then this book is for you. You cannot fail to be enthralled by it. The book should particularly appeal to Oxbridge students, past or present, for reasons that will become clear when you read it.
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on 3 June 2010
I'm currently reading this and coming towards the end and honestly I really don't want it to end at all!

The whole story is so charged with mystery and incredible ups and downs that you never quite know what's coming next. The characters and their personalities are so well defined and it's easy to empathise with each one on this journey.
It's a great book for learning more about another culture alongside the main story as well.

This book has had me laughing and feeling sadness but I love it, I'm finding Graham Joyce's style of writing very easy to read with some simple yet complex description that's easy to keep up with.

Would definitely recommend this book, it's great on my commute and I feel like I'm in another world completely when I'm reading it.
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on 19 May 2005
What a fantastic book, especially for the Thailand enthusiast, it brought back memories of my first ever visit and the culture shock experience. Mick's character had me in stitches with his antics and in your face attitude to life. The book was very funny in places while still dealing with a very serious subject, thoroughly recommended.
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on 25 December 2011
I loved the beginning of this quirky little book...Danny bit of a louse living alone from his estranged family finds out that his daughter is missing and heads off to the steamy sights of Chiang-Mai in Thailand (or as his friend Mick likes to call it Thighland! in hot persuit)He is accompanied by this best friend Mick and his somewhat aloof and strange son Phil. I thought the scenes in Chiang-Mai were great fun and in particular one incident with Mick bought a big smile to my face...however once we head off to the jungle I felt that not only did our heroes lose their way but the story did also :( For those of you of a certain age ie you were doped out on Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and the glory days of Woodstock then the second half of the book may well appeal to you...I just found it somewhat boring and even though the message in the final few pages is uplifting (but not unexpected) ultimately the book did not deliver and left me somewhat glad when I had finished.
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on 21 May 2003
In SMOKING POPPY, Graham Joyce has done an excellent job of handling both the psychological and spiritual issues mysteriously yet honestly. This book is a striking portrayal of a father's unconditional love for his children (and his children's unfailing desire to protect him). Nothing here is portrayed as right or wrong beyond the demands of loyalty. More than a thriller, more than a family novel, SMOKING POPPY seamlessly weaves the two genres together into a painful, amusing, and unnerving tale of love and violence in the exotically dangerous Asian jungle.
If you have trouble with slightly far-out spirituality, you may have trouble with this story, but if you're interested in a seriously disturbed literary trip, SMOKING POPPY will definitely deliver.
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on 25 January 2006
A very smooth story that had me glued to the pages and made the book very hard to put down. The way Joyce makes the characters seem real and the dialogue fast and intelligent makes you enter into the story and believe you are there. I will definately be buying another book written by this author (who seems to only attract 5 star ratings).
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on 7 August 2014
Fantastic book, gripping - I have now started quite a collection of Graham Joyce's books. They never disappoint the reader - I get lost in the story and cannot put the books down until finished.
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on 8 July 2013
This book had an intriguing plot, colourful location set in Thailand with all it's tastes and smells delightfully described and mysterious full blown characterisation. Brilliant book.
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