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The Glass Palace

3.91 of 5 stars 3.91  ·  rating details  ·  13,270 ratings  ·  945 reviews
Set in Burma during the British invasion of 1885, this masterly novel by Amitav Ghosh tells the story of Rajkumar, a poor boy lifted on the tides of political and social chaos, who goes on to create an empire in the Burmese teak forest. When soldiers force the royal family out of the Glass Palace and into exile, Rajkumar befriends Dolly, a young woman in the court of the B ...more
552 pages
Published 2000 by HarperCollins
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
Yes. This is why I read historical fiction.

Amitav Ghosh devoted five years of his life to the travel, research, and writing required to tell this story. It follows the mingled fates of three families and three countries--Burma, India, and Malaya, from 1885 through the mid-1990s. The story begins with the British takeover of the kingdom of Burma as its king and queen are exiled to a remote compound in India. Through the lives of the orphan Rajkumar, his mentor Saya John, the girl Dolly, and her
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Praj
During my pre-vegetarian days, I used to find solace in a warm, juicy scrumptious steak n’ cheese sandwich washed down by a chilled Heineken. Especially, if the gooey cheese was a blend of Munster, Monterey jack and yellow cheddar; the bread not too soggy but aptly moisten by the beef gravy. It is pure bliss. On the other hand, a classier version for $150 is layered with buttered lobsters, black truffles and caviar. Now, why would someone mess up such a meticulous appetizing combination? Stop! D ...more
Erwin
Wow! I have just finished one of my new favourite books! And I believe I will hit the "become a fan" button on Ghosh's page here on Goodreads after I finish this! (I loved Sea of Poppies and River of Smoke too) This book was a fantastic ride through part of South East Asia's history! A fascinating family drama that never bored. Well-written and a sad but also touching end. Well Done!!
Lauren
Dec 26, 2007 Lauren rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
The first person I recommended this book to was an English professor, who said she was immediately "transfixed." Undoubtedly Amitav Ghosh's masterpiece (his other novels do not even compare), The Glass Palace is an epic that takes place over three generations of a multi-ethnic and multi-class families in Southeast Asia. Ghosh sets the novel in the Bengal region, which straddles modern-day borders of India, Bangladesh, Burma, and Malaysia, demonstrating how the porous nature of these cultures mak ...more
Mommalibrarian
This book is epic in length and covers three generations of Indians in the countries of Malaya and Burma (Myanmar) from 1885 until the end of the twentieth century. This is a very large scope and it is covered by disconnected chapters that are almost standalone essays. A few are strongly written - the torn loyalties of the Indian soldier when faced with continuing to serve a British master as part of the empire or switching to the Japanese side to drive the British out. Some of the essay / chapt ...more
K
Most of the historical fiction books I've read have tried to do three things -- evoke a sense of time and place, depict historical events through the eyes of their characters, and last (and often least, unfortunately, even though this is ostensibly the reason to read a novel in the first place), create multifaceted characters who are experiencing their own growth, development, and plot. The best historical fiction books I've read integrated all three of these goals into a smooth and readable nar ...more
jordan
What exactly can one say about “The Glass Palace?” Amitav Ghosh, with his lyrical prose, intricate characters, and extraordinary gift for research, never ceases to amaze. How many other writers could offer a work of such sweep -- following an extended family’s triumphs and travails through 115 years of Burmese history – enwrapping the reader in each moment and personality so completely that you find yourself holding your breath?

If you consider yourself reasonably well educated and have only thou
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Mummy
If you like sagas, this was a good one, but in common with a lot of sagas is the large cast of characters. Although I do rate Amitav Ghosh as a writer with great ability to draw characters, this time by the end of the book I couldn't keep straight who was who and what relationship they had to each other. Often the people I was most interested in, just featured in a small bit of the book and after that heard from only in passing.

After a long gap of years, I have only recently resumed reading ligh
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Elaine
Time to admit that this is not getting finished. Despite being in Mandalay when I started it, I found that this book, which is rather too abrupt in jumping from decade to decade and generation to generation, also dragged and failed to engage. I feel like Ghosh is a writer with flashes of a brilliance I could love who too often gets tangled up in his need to instruct, to fill in the deplorable gaps in our understanding of colonialism and Southeast Asia. I feel his pain at the reader's ignorance, ...more
Jesse Field
“But you could come to Singapore with us first; you could probably get a ship there. It might even be easier.’
Dinu paused to think. ‘You may be right. Yes . . . I’ll come.’
She reached for his hands. ‘I don’t think I could bear to go without you. Especially now.’
‘Why now?’
She dug into his chest with her forehead. ‘Because I think I’m in love with you, Dinu—or something like that at any rate. I didn’t know it before, but I know it now.’
He pulled her closer. He did not care what had happened betwee
...more
CadyCan
Borrowed from Jane, Dummer Book Club read.

This book took ages to read (approx 2months), largely due to move etc. but also because there was nothing in it that grabbed me & compelled me to read on. It's an easy book to put down & I can understand why some people in Dummer book club gave up on it. The names are hard to follow for two reasons: 1. they're foreign to me 2. There are many many characters.

Thoughts on book changed as I read it. Started off thinking it's going to be a gripping hi
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Appu Shaji
The Glass Palace is indeed history masqueraded as finely crafted fiction, and politics discussed is ever relevant. At its core, the Glass Palace is the story of ordinary people's life being taken over by politics and drowning them into insignificance.

What I found mostly remarkable is how the build-up of each character is paced, with often illustrious and heavy detailing during the first and middle part of their stories, however their exit from the book is mostly tapered, and seems sometimes even
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Palmyrah
Amitav Ghosh has been a favourite of mine ever since I picked up The Calcutta Chromosome in a Singapore bookshop many years ago. This is the first book of his that has disappointed me.

It begins well, with the story of two unrelated orphans who survive the British invasion of Burma and the deposition of King Thebaw. One is a servant-girl at the royal court; the other is a Bengali street boy. Many years later, in India, they marry. The first part of the story, which tells of their adventures and e
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aswin
Ghosh weaves the lives of characters spanning three generations as they try to rearrange their personal lives around a world that is quite beyond their control. The novel is set mostly in 19th and 20th century Burma and India (US and other parts of South East Asia also play roles), but you could read through its characters the many conflicting tugs of the colonial condition in general. The novel starts out as a slow read but as the second generation of characters start to grow up and the pace of ...more
Laura
Feb 26, 2011 Laura rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: all Ghosh fans
Page 107:
May I remind Your Highness that while Alexander the GReat spent no more than a few months in the steppes of Central Asia, the satrapies he founded persisted for centuries afterward) Britain's Empire is, by contrast, already more than a century old, and you may be certain, Your Highness, that its influence will persist for centuries more to come.

Page 292
There were quotations from Mahatma Gandhi and a passage that said: "Why should India, in the name of freedom, come to the defence of thi
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Manu Prasad
Where do I begin? Let's start with stating the simple - I loved this book. I haven't read such a poignantly moving book in quite a while!
With that out of the way, the story actually begins in Mandalay (Burma) in 1885, during the last days of the Konbaung Dynasty. The British forcibly depose the Burmese King Thebaw, his queen Supayalat and their daughters from “The Glass Palace,” so named for the large central hall which had crystal walls and mirrored ceilings. As looters raid the palace, Rajkuma
...more
Ayushi
Apr 05, 2011 Ayushi rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: The Intellectually inclined or people who enjoy 'readable not-complex' literature
Recommended to Ayushi by: My English teacher
I love Amitav Ghosh, he is my favourite novelist currently. The Glass Place is one of my favourite books of his. It is a sweeping epic that starts from the eviction of the Royal family in Burma where a urchin witnesses the royalty being indignantly thrown out and resolutely falls in love with one of the helpers who comes to India with the king and the Queen and the 3 princessses.The books explores their life there as normal people there and the hardships they go through . It shifts to the Planta ...more
Chana
An exhausting read, it is dense with history. If a story can be very intense and boring at the same time, then this book is it. I think this is because the story is secondary to the history. Historical fiction is often a story written in an historical context. This is history written through the vehicle of a fictional story. Everything in this story is created to tell the history of Burma (Myanmar). I felt emotionally connected to the story because the author is, his love for the country and the ...more
Elizabeth (Alaska)
I have such mixed feelings with this one. Parts of it is beautifully written, parts of it is a slog (for me). It is a sweeping history of Burma (even though much of it takes place in India and Malaya) from the time of the British conquest in 1885 to nearly the time of publication. Most of the book takes place in the first half of the 20th Century. It is the story of two people caught up in that conquest of 1885 and their extended families.

While I was reading, I wanted more story and less histor
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Sindhu
On the off chance if this review sounds more like a personal note, excuse me, but what is a good story if it doesn't enthrall you with the profoundness of its landscape and characters? Reflecting on events as they unfold, is what I have to say on my writing this review even before I have finished reading the novel.

The Glass Palace tells you that history is not just a chronology of events printed and preserved. That, boundaries are not fixed. That, nation, is nothing but an imagination. That, id
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Helynne
I lived in Burma and traveled to Thailand as a young child, so I picked up this novel, hoping it would bring back some nostalgic memories of Burma (now Myanmar), its people and culture. It certainly did. This book is rich with ethnic and cultural descriptions such as the teak forests where elephants work along with humans to fell and transport the beautiful wood that will be made into furniture and artifacts. The story begins during the British colonial period in 1885, and follows several gener ...more
Mom
The first part of the novel, set during the English conquest of Burma and the exile of the Burmese royal family was fascinating, introducing interesting characters and an exotic setting. But, sadly, then the story began to drag. Later characters did not seem real. Historical novels should be mostly about character, with history as a backdrop. Instead, this story lacked compelling characters and the events seemed strained and unrealistic. Too many vital things happened "suddenly" without explanat ...more
Joyce Lagow
Covering the period of time between the mid-19th century to the present, set mostly in Burma, The Glass Palace is a story of two Indian/Burmese families over a period of generations during times of vast political and social changes in Burma. It is a fascinating account of the large Indian migration to Burma in the 19th and early 20th centuries, first to harvest teak, then to work the rubber plantations. The Indians imported into Burma--and imported is a euphemism for economic slavery--were mostl ...more
H R
Towards the end of the book I felt as if a giant invisible hand had plucked me up and started shaking me. I couldn't identify my feelings, I only knew that I was overwhelmed. Perhaps what I felt is close to what Zadie Smith described as 'joy' in a recent essay*. Whatever it was, I finished the novel profoundly moved and grateful for a novelist like Amitav Ghosh.

The Glass Palace is an epic and it flies by very quickly. It is a generational story of three families who intersect across three countr
...more
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
What the blurb led me to expect: A book about Burma in the late 19th century, starring a boy/young man named Rajkumar.

What the book actually is: An epic family saga beginning in 1885 and ending in 1996, set in Burma/Myanmar, India, and Malaysia, starring a whole bunch of people.

Fortunately, I like epic family sagas starring a whole bunch of people. I was pleased to find that, far from just being Rajkumar’s love interest as the blurb would indicate, Dolly is a protagonist in her own right (arguab
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Sayantan
The history is spot on, the characters and plot less so. The author seems to have set himself a target of including all significant historical events in colonial Burma. The good that came from it is that he researched it very well and painted a convincing picture of events unfolding from the view point of an average citizen unable to resist the sweep of history. But unfortunately, the ways the protagonists land up bang in the middle of history in the making, seems a little contrived. As I said b ...more
Nicole
I admired the scope of this book, which was very ambitious. I liked the big web of related characters, and the ways they came in and out of each other's lives.

The main problem for me, though, was that I felt like I barely got to know the characters, particularly the two most important ones, Rajkumar and Dolly. I learned a lot about what they did, but not how they felt. The process of them falling in love seemed glossed over, and their marriage appeared almost like a business decision. Throughou
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Amber
I read this on a recommendation from someone because the author is bangladeshi. It gives some of the history of India/Britain/burma/malaysia over the course of 3 generations of families. It follows the british ousting of the Burmese royalty and forced exile in India and also a young boy who works on the rivers in southeast asia doing odd jobs. Their families become intertwined and are involved in teak harvesting, rubber plantations and the indian separatist movements.
Very interesting, as I don'
...more
Pam Geemul
I just loved the book! The storyline is such that i finished the book within two days and was quite bummed when i reached the end. Spanning over three generations, the book is all about the fall of the last king of Burma to World War II, and its heartrending effects on humankind. Reading about the ravages of WWII and consequences of same on the psyche of the soldiers especially,was quite revealing and one can only imagine how hard(to say the least) it must have been to be a part of it all. There ...more
Suzanne Woods
For me, this book was a challenge to read. So many characters to place, with many different stories following a very historical path. Even right to the finish of the book I will still having to remind myself who was who? In saying that though it was a very interesting journey and a true reflection of a family through love and war.
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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
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More about Amitav Ghosh...
Sea of Poppies (Ibis Trilogy, #1) The Hungry Tide The Shadow Lines River of Smoke (Ibis Trilogy, #2) The Calcutta Chromosome: A Novel of Fevers, Delirium & Discovery

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“What would it be like if I had something to defend - a home, a country, a family - and I found myself attacked by these ghostly men, these trusting boys? How do you fight an enemy who fights with neither enmity nor anger but in submission to orders from superiors, without protest and without conscience?” 33 likes
“To use the past to justify the present is bad enough—but it’s just as bad to use the present to justify the past.” 9 likes
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