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River of Smoke (Ibis Trilogy #2)

3.87 of 5 stars 3.87  ·  rating details  ·  4,514 ratings  ·  593 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
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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
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
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
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
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
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
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
“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
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
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
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
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 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
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'
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
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
Bobby D
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
Susan Stuber
River of Smoke is rather an odd sequel to The Sea of Poppies. Although Ghosh still very masterfully describes people and places in Smoke, and although he does play around again with the language, it is a very different kind of book. Smoke is basically a historical novel, whereas Poppies was basically a really good novel that was historically and socially correct and revealing. Many of Smoke's characters are based on real persons, and I believe even many of the speeches, letters, etc., are also a ...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
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
Akshat Upadhyay
Wanted to give it 5 stars but Chinnery's letters let it down. However this book focuses more on Bahram Modi's life and his dealings with the 'Committee', so is considerably more one-dimensional as compared to the first part. The descriptions of the Forbidden City invoke the sights and smells of an ancient Chinese city. Plus I never knew the extent of trade relationship that we had with the Chinese.

The invocation of free trade by Slade and Dent, its facetious nature harks back to today's suppose
The book is a nice read. After getting used to the jargon, I read it with enjoyment.
The book tells the story of various opium merchants in Canton in the events that lead to the first Opium war. The book is mainly told from the perspective of 4 characters:
An Indian (Parsi) opium merchant
His clerk
An English/Indian Artist living in Canton
A young botanist searching for a rare flower

Even though the main protagonists are opium dealers, you tend to identify with them and you somehow forget what they a
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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 73 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)

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