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Gun Island

3.68  ·  Rating details ·  3,114 ratings  ·  595 reviews
Alternate cover edition of ASIN B07DNDDFLD

Bundook. Gun. A common word, but one which turns Deen Datta's world upside down.

A dealer of rare books, Deen is used to a quiet life spent indoors, but as his once-solid beliefs begin to shift, he is forced to set out on an extraordinary journey; one that takes him from India to Los Angeles and Venice via a tangled route through th

Kindle Edition, 352 pages
Published June 6th 2019 by John Murray
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Average rating 3.68  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,114 ratings  ·  595 reviews

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May 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
A beautifully written, richly descriptive novel from Amitav Ghosh, of history, of legends, magic and folklore, environmentalism and our place in a world consumed by turbulence, endangered by global climate change. The contemporary world with its problems of migration, refugees, and Fortress Europe, and the personal search for identity, faced by so many, are encapsulated within the vibrant narrative and its colourful diversity of characters, and the life changing adventurous journey through a myr ...more
Jun 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Gun Island is a contemporary novel worth savouring rather than devouring, and as we travel seamlessly between times and continents we are treated to an epic adventure of immense breadth and depth. Encompassing a range of themes including important and prevalent topical issues such as climate change, the refugee crisis and the influx of migrants flowing through Europe looking for a better, safer life, Ghosh holds a mirror up to ourselves for us to see the dire state we currently find ourselves in ...more
A very weird story .
An attempt at mixing up many issues , creating a hodgepodge of events.
The issues touched upon in this book are:
-culture and belief
- magic
- ability to converse with /understand non human animals
- environmental issues and climate change
- slavery and trafficking
- illegal immigrants and their problems faced

I may be missing an issue or two

The story happens in the Sunderbans, Italy ( especially Venice ) and a small time frame in New York.

Main characters include
I guess I start out by saying I have really liked Amitav Ghosh's other books - I have read most of them, and when I picked up this one I saved it for a while before reading it. Unfortunately, it is by far the one I have enjoyed least.

I have put the most part of this review in a spoiler, as it does discuss the main themes of the book.

(view spoiler)
Rajat Ubhaykar
Oct 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
A surreal, transcontinental tale of climate change & distress migration that straddles the animal & human kingdoms, and spans the 17th & 21st centuries. I quite enjoyed this, though I'm pretty sure I'm going to be dreaming of venomous snakes and spiders tonight... ...more
Simona B

The treasure-hunt plot proved to be a great vehicle to combine the ancient legend and contemporary climate change problems that, merged together, constitute the backbone of the book, and I adored it. However, I have a number of issues with the second part of the book. I believe this book manifests a tendency towards a sort of mysticism which the author tries to connect to topical issues of social injustice (human trafficking as related to illegal immigration, climate change) in a way that I c
Sep 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
It’s unusual for me to read a novel while knowing with pretty high confidence what the author is trying to achieve. It certainly looks like Ghosh is following his own advice from The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable, which explores why so little recent literature has examined the current impacts of climate change. There is plenty of futuristic post-apocalyptic so-called cli-fi, but that tends to consist of survivalist thrillers. Ghosh concludes that climate change seems too ...more
Ok, now I know if I want to read him again.

The first half was almost a 4 star despite all the strange intersects and disconnecting portions of continuity. Because the writing was mood placing and thorough. Just a wonderful job for the Sundurbans endlessly changing waterways and marshes, but also for the magic or "other" non-physical, almost spiritual or at least "of spirit" level to the posits.

But then it wasn't that at all. It was magic realism run amok with social warrior organizing theory di
Shishir Chaudhary
This one is a good book that I thoroughly enjoyed but did not turn out to be a literary masterpiece that Amitav Ghosh, its author, is known for churning out. This is his second attempt at mixing science with magical realism (the first one being The Calcutta Chromosome which was brilliant) but falters at a few levels. While the story is gripping and is relevant to our times, commenting strongly on the ill-effects of climate crisis, it leaves many loose ends. It may also be interpreted as author's ...more
Ipshita Sengupta
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: giveaway-wins
“Reading was my means, I thought, of escaping the narrowness of the world I lived in. But was it possible that my world had seemed narrow precisely because I was a voracious reader? After all, how can any reality match the worlds that exist only in books? “

This was my first Amitav Ghosh novel and I doubt it will be my last. While the story touched on many prevalent issues (ie climate change & migration) , what I most appreciated was the way they were tied together. We see the impact humanity has
A story which weaves a Bengali folk tale from the 17th century with today’s catastrophic events brought by climate change, from the migrations of both animals and humans, which have terrible consequences on the displaced, for the animals struggling for survival and the humans desperate for opportunities for decent living, who are treated as just another commodity to collect body parts and fuel political disputes and make financial gains.

Through all this is Dean, a middle aged Bengali man who ha
Kasa Cotugno
Beautifully written, as other Ghosh books I've read, I love the interweaving of myth and realism as his take on current events unfolds through the eyes of a rare book dealer living in Brooklyn. Deen has several moments of truth, and we accompany him as he goes deep into the Sundarbans, a mangrove swamp area between
Bengal and Bangladesh, Los Angeles and Venice, culminating on a ship in the Mediterranean. Ghosh has a love of the planet and its people, but through this lovely book he quietly expre
Jun 05, 2019 rated it it was ok
Sadly this turned out to be a bit of a disappointment. The start was brilliant, I was seriously fascinated by the Gun Merchant legend and his attempt at retracing the old temple and its significance. I loved all the details about the Sundarbans, such a magical place with all those rivers converging, and marshes and tigers still roaming, no wonder people created such fantastic stories around it. I enjoyed the little stories about local people, about their struggles, about the why behind so many p ...more
Jun 12, 2019 rated it liked it
Legendary labour.

Amitav Ghosh is a master storyteller so I was somewhat surprised here to find a narrative arc that seemed to lack his immersive touch. Gun Island gives us a mixed bag of a story that ticks off many of today’s hot literary topics: magic realism, immigration, climate change, the need for an overriding hero.

The first half of Gun Island is a laboured telling of how his narrator, Bengali born but brought up in America, finds himself in India caught up in a harrowing trip to a remote
Divya Pal Singh
This book was such a let down after the author's epic "Ibis Trilogy" (Sea of Poppies,River of Smoke,Flood of Fire). It is a humdrum sort to novel with rare flashes of brilliance. The liberal use of Italian and Bengali phrases interrupts the flow of the narrative. In this Dan Brownesque book the author tries unsuccessfully to address myriad issues - climate change, refugees, human trafficking, animal extinction, environmental pollution, mysticism - and fails spectacularly. I had expected better f ...more
Jul 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: english, netgalley
Thank you to NetGalley and John Murray for the ARC

In literature there are things like genre, style, themes, motives, etc, ...well Gun Island is one eclectic novel. It went in all directions campus novel, historical fiction, thriller, magical realism, environmentalism, etymology, biology, migration, fairytal/folklore, with a dash of snakes on a plane.

Rare books dealer, new York based, Bengali Deen is drawn into the story of Bonduki Sadagar, or the Gun Merchant on a visit back to India and the Sun
Georgina Kamsika
May 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: arc
I’ve enjoyed every Amitav Ghosh book I’ve read, so I was very excited to obtain an ARC for GUN ISLAND.

Much of this thriller is centred around places I’ve been to in India with wonderful details about life there, the effect of climate change, immigration and technology. It moves to other places, New York, Oregon, Venice and Bangladesh while keeping the theme resonant.

The story mixes Bengali myths and reality with a slow burn plot that still kept me gripped until the climax. The story follows De
Kavitha Sivakumar
Oct 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ir-armchair-2019
This book is like Indira Soundarrajan books. Telling the story that has both supernatural and historical aspects. It was interesting to know how the words from other languages morph into a different word/meaning in the local language in which the story is told. I hear about the story of Manasa Devi and the gun merchant for the first time. How banduki sadaagar, meaning gun merchant, in Bengali means the merchant of Venice when the words are properly identified in Arabic and translated. The story ...more
Jun 17, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, india
Ugh, I really wanted to like this book as it purports to be a novel about climate change and cultural crisis from an "own voices" perspective. 

Deen (aka Dinath) is a dealer in rare books, who finds himself drawn into the tale of a historical "Gun Merchant" who operated between the Sundarbans of Bengal and the markets of Venice and Sicily, as well as into the lives of current and ex-pat Bengalis and Italians. 

However, I found that the writing didn't subscribe enough to magical realism to be e
Oct 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Kudos to Ghosh for using his talents as a novelist to bring to life some aspects of climate change and migration. I especially enjoyed the story’s geographic sweep and use of Hindu mythology, as well as the background material Ghosh braids into the story, although the didactic content and mysticism were a bit much for me at times.
Interesting novel but was too slow for myself though
Regina Lemoine
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in a Goodreads giveaway.

I am sorry to say that I did not enjoy this novel. It saddens me because, politically, I am very much on the same page as the author.

The problems I had with the text are:

1. There are too many coincidences that make the plot nearly wholly unbelievable. Ghosh introduces themes of the supernatural, including precognition, that I felt were handled in a clunky manner. I don’t care for books in which it seems the author ha
Jul 27, 2019 rated it it was ok
Thoroughly disappointed. No two ways about it. Definitely his worst.
Nov 22, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
According to the narrator “there are few expressions in the English language that are less attractive to women than ‘Rare Book Dealer’” (p. 4). The narrator is both wrong and dumb.
Dec 06, 2019 rated it liked it
After giving up on two novels back-to-back because they were both driven mainly by ideas instead of plot (The Magic Mountain & Gilead), I was looking for something super engaging and plot-driven. Gun Island fit the bill just right. I have read two of Amitav's books before - The Glass Palace and Sea of Poppies, and I enjoyed reading both. So I kinda knew what I was stepping into.

Gun Island is set in a very Dan Brown-ish space, with the central character trying to solve an ancient mystery and the
This is one of those books that needs to rest before you fully grasp its magnitude.

Spanning from India to Venice, this novel weaves on old local Indian myth into a global history of displacement, migration, otherness and survival in places that are not home. Really cleverly done, you want to pay attention from the very beginning as the novel draws you in even without you knowing where it is going. Hold on to about the midpoint, where the main themes will be much clearer!

It is not only expats a
Robert Blumenthal
Feb 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Amitav Ghosh has been writing novels for a while now, and this is his latest. It is also my first of his. I had a bit of trepidation going in for I thought it was going to be a bit dystopian and depressing. And though it is not a joyous romp by any means, there is a lot more hope and wonder expressed in these pages than expected. It is a novel very much of our times, in particular out times of blindly causing, through ignorance and greed, what may be the planet's sixth great extinction. Around t ...more
Nov 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
I was swept along by the unfolding mystery of this book. Ultimately it has a powerful message about how history can repeat itself and how we can use myths, legends and parables to remind us not to be apathetic about the preciousness of the world we live in and that we should treat all people with humanity.
I would describe this novel as mythical realism (if that is a thing) because you do need to suspend a few disbeliefs and accept the many coincidences (which Ghosh frequently reminds you to do!
Aug 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cli-fi, c21st, india
Amitav Ghosh is one of my favourite authors: I read and liked The Glass Palace (2000) a long time ago, and I was transfixed by his historical fiction trilogy, Ibis. There is so much resentful agenda-driven fiction these days—but Ghosh writes big picture novels that illuminate and clarify rather than blame.

The big picture issue that he tackles in Gun Island is the state of the planet, and climate change in particular. The point that he makes that's new for me, is that we might have reached a tipp
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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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