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River of Smoke (Ibis Trilogy #2)

3.85 of 5 stars 3.85  ·  rating details  ·  3,694 ratings  ·  510 reviews
In September 1838 a storm blows up on the Indian Ocean and the Ibis, a ship carrying a consignment of convicts and indentured labourers from Calcutta to Mauritius, is caught up in the whirlwind. When the seas settle, five men have disappeared—two lascars, two convicts and one of the passengers. Did the same storm upend the fortunes of those aboard the Anahita, an opium car ...more
Published 2011 by Penguin India (first published January 1st 2010)
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Old News: BAH! I am going to have to come back and fix (may be rewrite) this review later.

Current News: Review updated.

Where were we? On the Ibis, after the storm, right? Amitav Ghosh picks up the threads from there, tells us about the different directions in which the characters were scattered and then we continue to follow Neel who brings us to Canton to witness the drama and politics surrounding the opium trade (psst! smuggling), and an account of the events which wi
I really enjoyed book one of this pending trilogy. Sea of Poppies was action packed, tense, enjoyable reading with characters I liked and rooted for. Imagine my surprise when River of Smoke, which I bought immediately after finishing Sea of Poppies, turned out to be a crashing bore. What happened to our main characters? At the end of Sea of Poppies they escaped in a storm? I was anxious to follow their progress through book two. Mr. Ghosh had other ideas but it seemed to me that he pretty much p ...more
Doug Bradshaw
Perhaps the most amazing, brilliant historical fiction I have ever read. I've dabbled a little bit with writing, taken a few classes in college and I've read, surely over a thousand books. But I think I admire this book over anything I've ever read thus far and I finally realize, good grief, Doug, don't try to write any more. You don't have what it takes!

Here is painstaking research, wonderful characterizations of people (some of whom actually lived) and every aspect of their personalities and
Janet Frasier
Where is this book?? It was originally to be published in 10/2010, but my local bookseller hasn't seen it?? My heart is still stranded in that longboat paddling away from the Ibis!!
Grace Tjan

Let’s cut to the chase: is it as good as the Sea of Poppies? The short answer is (regrettably) no. It is by no means badly written, but it simply does not live up to the promise of its predecessor. Ghosh does a creditable job of telling us about life in the Thirteen Hongs during the interesting period that culminated in the First Opium War, and he chose a protagonist that is well-suited to the task of conveying the subcontinent’s perspective on the whole sordid affair --- but it somehow feels ra
i LOVED this just as much as the 1st book in this unfinished trilogy, Sea of Poppies. Such a captivating story --- the narrative and characters are engaging enough, and then there's the HISTORY - i knew really nothing about the Opium Wars, or this part of the world (mostly takes place in Canton, China), and definitely nothing about the amazing cultural landscape and linguistic creations that grew there. So interesting for a fictionalized historical take on political issues like imperialism and f ...more
I loved Sea of Poppies and was anxiously awaiting this sequel; I had to know what would happen to a number of it's characters. I was disappointed. The focus in River of Smoke is on the shady characters that were responsible for the opium trading in China. The story unfolds mainly in Canton, and eve though it is a pleasure to read the description of the town and hear Ghosh's beautiful rendering of the language spoken by the mixture of peoples that populate the city, it is not what I expected. Gho ...more
Amitav Ghosh's story-telling must be at least as addicting as opium. In addition to the amazingly well-researched details of the events leading up to the Opium war of 1839-40, and the interwoven and parallel narratives of the European quest for the botanical riches of China (itself a dazzling sub-plot that links both the search for specimens including a fabled flower, and an intriguing account of what Ghosh shows was an important Sino-European chapter in the development of medical art (had me co ...more
Mal Warwick
A Brilliant Indian Novel about the 19th Century Opium Trade with China

Balzac (and lots of people after him) thought that “Behind every great fortune there is a crime.” Nowhere is that aphorism more baldly illustrated than in the 19th-Century opium trade that enriched England, Scotland, and the United States and created a score of hereditary fortunes that have left their mark on the world for nearly two centuries since. After all, when Europeans introduced China to the practice of mixing opium wi
Flatfoot Vertigo
What utter fascination and delight to read Amitav Ghosh. His characters are perfectly drawn, from the inside out, and this book in particular, River of Smoke, paints, with a fine and delicate brush, a colorful and ornate portrait of Canton's Fanqui town and the opium trade involving Britain, India, and isolationist China in the middle 1800s.

Historical fiction, this reads more like a fictional novel, full of characters with longing and ambition in a wide range, from self-righteous, racist, imperi
Mark Staniforth
In a literary world whose bestseller lists are clogged up with chick-lit and the memoirs of C-list celebs, it may seem churlish to make the chief criticism of Amitav Ghosh's 519-page 'River Of Smoke' that of over-ambition.
Ghosh's novel - the second in a trilogy that began with the Booker-shortlisted 'Sea Of Poppies' in 2008 - is an epic by any standards: extraordinarily researched; superb in its evocation of a distant time and place.
But strictly in the context of the literary firmament into whi
This is the second part of Amitav Ghosh's trilogy on the Opium wars - arguably the worst episode (among many) of Britain's history. It deals with the nineteenth century opium trade that Britain used - opium grown in India and shipped to China to create addiction there that would change the trade deficit Britain had with China. Before this Britain's imports of tea from China were so high, but exports of anything TO China so low, that the country's coffers to silver were draining fast. So Britain ...more
I was disappointed in this, having been so impressed by its predecessor, “Sea of Poppies”. It is the second installment of the Ibis trilogy, but the link between the two books was tenuous. (The Ibis is caught in a storm, and we are then introduced to another boat in the same storm, and then pretty much follow that boat and its owner). This is a new character, an Indian opium runner in Canton, and most of the major characters from the first book are relegated to extras. (A couple of them feature, ...more
Oh, my... This book sets such a high standard that it makes me think I should go back and "demote" a lot of my five-star books to four! River of Smoke is the second novel of a planned trilogy by Amitov Ghosh. I loved the first one, Sea of Poppies, but delayed reading River of Smoke after it came out, just to prolong the anticipation. I was not disappointed. The novels take place against the backdrop of the opium trade, overseen by the British between India and China. The political, economical, a ...more
Wow. Major letdown after Sea of Poppies. The playfulness is gone, replaced by a long didactic slog through the lead up to the Opium Wars. Far too much exposition, with long long excerpting from historical documents, so that the entire novel centers around the dry political machinations of the foreign merchants, and everything else -- particularly the rich panoply of characters that made the first book such a delight -- is pushed to the edges. Even Paulette - who unlike most of the characters fro ...more
Nov 12, 2011 Lisa rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lisa by: Shadow Man Asian Literary Prize 2011
Shelves: 21stcentury, india
If the rest of the longlisted books are in the same league as Amitav Ghosh’s River of Smoke, I predict that we will have a tough time choosing a winner for our Shadow Man Asian Literary Award, (see so will the official jury. It’s a great story by a master story-teller, and like the great 19th century novels it is said to resemble, it offers thought-provoking issues to ponder long after the book is finished.

For most of my adult life, de-regulation and free trade has dom
More loveliness from Ghosh. Like its predecessor, Sea of Poppies, River of Smoke is not a technically brilliant novel. It seems sprawling and almost haphazard, the way it careens through time and between characters. But that's okay with me because the characters are fabulous and the storytelling strong enough to grab me and pull me into this pipe dream of a narrative.

This installment takes us away from India, where in the first book we witnessed the opium industry throwing some our characters'
Jesus Christ, am I glad I’m done with this! How could Ghosh possible create a work so utterly boring?

I absolutely LOVED The Glass Palace, and despite a slow beginning and some troubling language in the first work in this trilogy – Sea of Poppies – I ended up quite taken with it, drawn into the plotlines and characters, and wanted to jump right into this while all of the terminology, names, locations, family lineages, etc, were fresh. However, it seems that barely anything from S of P carries ov
I found the recommendation for River of Smoke on NPR, and ordered it immediately. I could have read it's predecessor, Sea of Poppies, which would have helped me keep the characters straight, but although the book is dense with detail, I just slowed down and enjoyed the ride.

River of Smoke paints a picture of a time when the major powers of the world are making big bucks shipping opium into China, the risks are not so bad and the pay-off is high. River of Smoke is rich in visual detail, as you ho
One of the benefits of a summer trip to London is to discover that a much anticipated new book is available there before its United States publication date. So much to my surprise I was able to purchase Amitar Ghosh’s new book, the second of his Ibis trilogy, RIVER OF SMOKE. The first book being the outstanding SEA OF POPPIES (A+) which I read in 2009. Ghosh continues to amaze with his newest volume as both an excellent writer and story teller. I can not wait for the concluding volume in a few y ...more
Omar Omar
Having already read 'Sea of Poppies', I was looking forward to what Ghosh had to offer next. The follow-up did not disappoint. This time, Ghosh takes us to the foreign enclave in Canton, the only place under Chinese jurisdiction where foreign merchants can do business in China. By the 1830s, opium, officially banned in China, has made many a Western merchant rich, but at the expense of the consumers who use it. Bahram Moddie, a self-made Parsi merchant, has just arrived in Canton with possibly t ...more
Arah-Leah Hay
This is the second installment in the Ibis Trilogy and I have no doubt that upon completion it will be nothing short of a masterpiece. This is the most amazing work of historical fiction that I have ever read. Where "Sea Of Poppies" mostly takes place in India preceding the opium wars, "River Of Smoke" moves us into Canton's Fanqui town full of merchant traders and their shipments of opium. So will begin the opium wars involving India, China and Britain. This book bleeds culture on every page. I ...more

A pretty heroic feat of research that doesn't bog down until 2/3 of the way through. The novel doesn't have a plot so much as a pervasive feeling of inevitability -- all characters will encounter one another, and the impending opium wars will affect them all.

The pacing was brisker than 'Sea of Poppies' at the outset, though the Ghoshian glut of detail is still there. At page 360, all the edicts and letters passing between the Committees and Government officials became tiresome and monotonous. Th
Like so many readers of Sea of Poppies, I have been waiting for this ... My favorite Amitav Ghosh moment was not when I saw an excellent and insightful "in conversation" with him at a book fair some years back, but when Vikram Seth, author of Suitable Boy, told me I had hair just like Amitav Ghosh.

I can say say with certainty that this will not disappoint fans of the Ibis saga. Ghosh has crafted a book that draws the reader into the personal stories of his characters, while giving us a rarely-d
Loved this book! I picked it up at the library because the name of the author looked familiar, but it turned out that this was the first of his books that I had read. Set in China in the 1800's, at the beginning of the opium wars. I think that I should have started with "Sea of Poppies", I'll go back and read that now.
I vaguely knew that the West had introduced opium to China, and that many Chinese had become addicted and died from their addiction, but I had no idea of how valuable the opium tra
I loved this book, the second in The Ibis Trilogy, I had waited two years to read it, and definatly wasn't disappointed .
History, humour and the wonderful descriptive writing of Amitav Ghosh, combined to make this one of the best books I have read this year.
I have learnt much about the opium trade, and about the lives of those involved in it.
Will I have to wait another two years to read the third book? I hope not, but if that's the case I'm sure it will be worth waiting for
Ratan Bhattacharjee

After Song of Poppies, Amitav Ghosh's second novel The River of Smoke was published, and was one of the great novels of the twenty first century Indian English literature. He is now writing the third part of his Ibis trilogy.AMITAV GHOSH took nearly three and a half years to write the second book of his Ibis trilogy. He spent several weeks in Guangzhou and learnt some Cantonese to depict the background of the novel which is set in Fanquit town. Most of the action occurs in Guangzhou. Like the Se
Like Thomas Jefferson improving on the Gospels with an X-ACTO® knife, Amitav Ghosh's Ibis Trilogy pulls apart and reassembles the world of Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin novels in a configuration more to Ghosh's liking.

Elements of the Aubrey/Maturin world which so far appear more-or-less unaltered in the Ibis Trilogy (so I therefore believe are pleasing to Ghosh): the world in the age of wooden ships, botany, Sir Joseph Banks, Napoleon, a sense of the grand sweep of history.

Elements of the Au
Sarbpreet Singh
Amitav Ghosh is not yet a great writer, but is certainly a very good one! The River of Smoke, the second installment in the Ibis trilogy is a less compelling book than the Sea Of Poppies. It is nevertheless a hugely entertaining read. The most interesting aspect of the book by far is the author's recreation of Fanqui Town in Canton on the eve of the Opium wars and the quasi historical characters that populate it. I had never really read a lot about the Opium Wars; its is most interesting to get ...more
River of Smoke is author Amitav Ghosh’s second novel in his trilogy about the opium trade in Southeast Asia. Book one, Sea of Poppies, began the story in 1838 India. It brought together diverse participants in the opium production biz including a widowed opium farmer, French orphans, a bankrupt Raj and a mulatto ship’s captain from America. They and pretty near a cast of thousands all ended up together on the ship Ibis that eventually took them away from the poppy fields along the Ganges and on ...more
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should one read sea of poppies first to understand river of smokes ? or is it required that it be read in series only ? 9 69 Dec 16, 2012 09:47PM  
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Amitav Ghosh is one of India's best-known writers. His books include The Circle of Reason, The Shadow Lines, In An Antique Land, Dancing in Cambodia, The Calcutta Chromosome, The Glass Palace, Incendiary Circumstances, The Hungry Tide. His most recent novel, Sea of Poppies, is the first volume of the Ibis Trilogy.

Amitav Ghosh was born in Calcutta in 1956. He studied in Dehra Dun, New Delhi, Alexan
More about Amitav Ghosh...

Other Books in the Series

Ibis Trilogy (3 books)
  • Sea of Poppies (Ibis Trilogy, #1)
  • Flood of Fire (Ibis Trilogy, #3)
The Glass Palace Sea of Poppies (Ibis Trilogy, #1) The Hungry Tide The Shadow Lines The Calcutta Chromosome: A Novel of Fevers, Delirium & Discovery

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