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River of Smoke (Ibis Trilogy #2)

3.89  ·  Rating Details ·  5,616 Ratings  ·  704 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
Hardcover
Published 2011 by Penguin India
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Harold Marcuse I'd agree: no need to read Sea of Poppies first, except for the first chapter of River and some background references to the characters' pasts, River…moreI'd agree: no need to read Sea of Poppies first, except for the first chapter of River and some background references to the characters' pasts, River can be a stand-alone. I too read it (well, I listened to the audiobook) because I liked Sea of Poppies.
It is definitely slower than its predecessor, but contains an interesting hash-out of how Lin Zexu's abrupt enforcement of the ban on opium imports in Canton might have played out.(less)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Arah-Lynda
Jun 07, 2016 Arah-Lynda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: top, lod, i-said
The absence of food doesn’t make a man forsake hunger – it only makes him hungrier.

In this the second instalment of The Ibis trilogy Amitav Ghosh sets the bar incredibly high. So high in fact I got a little dizzy from all the sights and sounds and smells that I was introduced to in so many of the fascinating locals that lay painted in broad strokes before my very eyes.

While the first book in this trilogy focused more on the cultivation of poppies in India and the East Indian Company’s opium fa
...more
Megha
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
...more
Doug Bradshaw
Dec 03, 2011 Doug Bradshaw rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Randy
Dec 21, 2012 Randy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Mal Warwick
Dec 24, 2012 Mal Warwick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
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
...more
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!!
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
...more
Raja
Jun 02, 2013 Raja rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Em
Thanks Arvind and Jaya, for reading alongwith. :)

4.5 stars
"The flowers of Canton are immortal and will bloom forever" - Yes, they will; at least in my memory.

This was the second instalment of the Ibis trilogy by Amitav Ghosh. Enjoyed it as much, and in some parts, even more than the first book.

THe first book dealt with India, poppy cultivation of the early 19th century , the tiff between the British and the feudal lords, and the aftermaths thereof.

Second book continues with the lives of a few o
...more
Marianne
May 30, 2015 Marianne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“Opium is like the wind or the tides: it is outside my power to affect its course. A man is neither good nor evil because he sails his ship upon the wind. It is his conduct towards those around him – his friends, his family, his servants – by which he must be judged. This is the creed I live by”

River of Smoke is the second book in the Ibis Trilogy by Amitav Ghosh. The story starts with an elderly Deeti Colver in Mauritius, visiting her shrine with its pictorial record of the family history. But
...more
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
...more
Jen
Nov 11, 2011 Jen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Ryan
Aug 09, 2012 Ryan rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Janne
Oct 28, 2011 Janne rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
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
Zina
Aug 14, 2011 Zina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Elaine
Sep 02, 2014 Elaine rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
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
Stuart
Feb 10, 2012 Stuart rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: indian
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
Betty
Feb 22, 2012 Betty rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jaya
Immediate thoughts:
Re-read after 3 years. A lot of information, perhaps not much transpired in terms of moving the story forward. Left with a lot of unanswered questions which I am hoping will be answered in the last part of the trilogy.
New rating- 3.5
Old rating 3
Tanuj Solanki
The review first appeared, in three installments, in The New Indian Express

At the end of Sea of Poppies, the first novel in the Ibis Trilogy, the cast aboard the schooner is split as five men—convicts and undesirables, broadly speaking—abandon ship during a violent storm somewhere in the Indian ocean, presumably off the Nicobar islands. It is a hook-ending—we have invested in the stories of four of these five characters—which leads us to pick up the second novel, River of Smoke, in anticipation
...more
Nicole~
3.5
Lisa
Dec 28, 2015 Lisa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lisa by: Shadow Man Asian Literary Prize 2011
Shelves: c21st, india, series
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 http://wp.me/phTIP-3Bz)and 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
Aeron
Mar 04, 2013 Aeron rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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'
...more
Biogeek
Jul 20, 2011 Biogeek rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-from-india
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
...more
Patricia
Jan 25, 2013 Patricia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Bobby D
Sep 06, 2011 Bobby D rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 06, 2012 Omar Omar rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sabita Mehra
Author clearly very erudite and knowledgable. Was more interesting to me than The Sea of Poppies because I recognize more aspects of Canton than I do of Calcutta (sadly!) and some of the historical and cultural vignettes were very insightful and interesting. On the other hand - I read literature for either beauty of language, personality development or just an unputdownable yarn. Unfortunately this didn't qualify on these counts. Some personalities were well etched, like Bahram. But there are to ...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 78 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
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)

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