Saralyn's Reviews > Sea of Poppies

Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh
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Feb 03, 09

Read in January, 2009

Centered around the passengers and crew of a converted slave ship, now opium trader and indentured servant transport, it is a fascinating exploration of the interaction of Indian and British culture during the early 19th century. Discussion of the role of the British in India and China, the opium trade, details about Hindu beliefs and rituals. Filled with period detail and fascinating characters. A part-black ship's carpenter who has become the ship's second mate through unexpected turns of fate, and who with mixed feelings about passing for white. A colorful crew of "Lascars" from all shores of the Indian Ocean. A young Indian widow who has been rescued from being burned on her late husband's funeral pyre. There are even more, all intriguing. Much of the subject matter is dark or tragic, but somehow I did not find this book depressing. You get the sense that the author is genuinely fond of and interested in human beings and their varied natures and motives, even as he is quite candid about their darker sides. The language used within the book is very colorful, since a fair bit of it takes place in a range of dialect and slang made up of 19th century British shipping terms intermingled with borrowings from Hindi and Portuguese. Make certain to realize that there is something of a glossary at the end of the book, or it may be difficult to follow some of the dialogue. While challenging in places, it is surprisingly comprehensible, and definitely draws the reader into the time and place of the book. Entertaining, informative, thought-provoking, and moving. The best book I've read in a long time.
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