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Gun Island

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  668 ratings  ·  169 reviews
From the award-winning author of the bestselling epic Ibis trilogy comes a globetrotting, folkloric adventure novel about family and heritage

Bundook. Gun. A common word, but one that 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 extraordina
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published September 10th 2019 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published June 6th 2019)
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3.79  · 
Rating details
 ·  668 ratings  ·  169 reviews

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May 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Ipshita Sengupta
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
Jun 27, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 05, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Jul 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: english
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
Daniel Simmons
The release of any new Amitav Ghosh novel is cause for celebration. Even when his characters are flat (as they are here), the dialogue is wooden (as it is here), and the plotting is faintly ridiculous and overly didactic (as it is here), I can still marvel at Ghosh's unabashedly bookish interest in etymology, cosmopolitanism, and the special power that art has to shed a light on important contemporary issues: in this volume, refugees/migrants, global inequality, and climate change. I always lear ...more
Jun 17, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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 exemp
Aug 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: india, cli-fi, c21st
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
Sep 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
“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
Aug 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
At a wedding reception, our main character Deen has a discussion with a cousin that forever changes his life; a conversation about a Bundook merchant, a gun merchant. After that, one could argue that fate steps in, and he is on an almost supernatural journey as the pieces of a folktale seem to come together to relive it.

I found this to be a wonderfully written modern-day tale of adventure with pieces of the past and pieces of the fantastical interwoven within. I did not want to put this book dow
Sep 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Udayan Chakrabarti
Thoroughly disappointed. No two ways about it. Definitely his worst.
Georgina Kamsika
May 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a masterpiece, a great mélange of genres, and abundant wealth of information! Great to find old acquaintances from The Hungry Tide; Nilima Bose is still alive and a much grown and smarter Tipu will charm you. Hats off for resurrection of folklore, for use of vernacular and international languages. Ah! There's also climate change, not just as a backdrop or an underlying theme but almost as a character, with its individual, social, historical, political, cultural, scientific contexts. You wou ...more
May 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I started reading the book, initially, I did not realize that the story had begun. It felt more like the author was talking about his own life. When there seemed to be some discrepancy about the narrator's background with that of the author's I realized my mistake. The story is of a 'Deen' who works with antique books. He is in India for a yearly holiday and that holiday is coming to an end. He runs into a relative who in turn asks him to visit an older lady with a tale to tell. This story ...more
Jul 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bibliocase
An antiquarian book dealer in Brooklyn, a Bengali folklore of a Merchant trying to escape the wrath of a Snake Goddess named Manasa Devi, an articulate and erudite Italian scholar trying to come to grips with a personal tragedy and a determined environmental activist steadfast in her resoluteness to save marine life from the dangerous effluents spewing out a refinery, all irrupt in a breathless, frenetic and rapturous manner in Amitav Ghosh’s latest thriller “Gun Island.”

Shades of “The Great Der
Aug 15, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Storytelling is a capricious mistress and this time she has betrayed Ghosh. The disappointment is huge, for Ghosh’s books are awaited with eagerness by his enthusiast readers and to be left discontented and unsatisfied at the end is a distasteful experience.
The storyline is undecided on the trajectory it intends to take: is it about climate change; about migration; about the absence of love in the life of the narrator; about travelling of the myth of Mansa Devi to the present? The writer has pr
Jun 07, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
‘”The legend is filled with secrets and if you don’t know their meaning it’s impossible to understand.” And then he added: “But some day, when the time is right, someone will understand it and who knows? For them it may open up a world we cannot see.”’

Approaching his late fifties, rare books dealer Dinanath Datta – known as Deen – is, quite frankly, a bit of a downer, moping about over his failed love life and generally being gloomy. From friends, he learns of the legend of the Gun Merchant and
Malvika Jaswal
Rating : 2 stars
Amitav Ghosh is a legend in modern Indian writing. My first introduction to this phenomenal author was through ‘The Hungry Tide’ followed by ‘The Glass Palace’ and ‘the Ibis Trilogy’. He has several more books to his credit and when I found out that he was coming out with a new novel, I ordered it sight-unseen. I did not even know what it was about and was simply happy to be spending my time trying to decipher its very intriguing cover.

So, the first thing that struck me about thi
I am a lapsed Amitav Ghosh reader, reconnecting with an author I once considered a favourite via this book.

I am not sure reconnecting was such a good idea.

The last book by A Ghosh that I read and liked was the highly underrated The Calcutta Chromosome, a wonderful fever dream of a novel that managed to succeed spectacularly as horror, sci-fi and literary fiction.

I loved it so much I parted with 10% of my monthly salary to buy The Glass Palace and what a terrible book that turned out to be. The n
Roshan Singh
Jul 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Gun Island was like a jolt that shook me to the core. The book plunges into the realm of magical realism only to resurface into the real world. A world that is literally stranger than fiction. Climate change is the single biggest threat our planet is facing. I was meaning to read something that addresses the issue since long. Most of the novels that have been written about it are based in the future and would be better categorised as dystopian fiction. What makes "Gun Island" special is that it ...more
Marie (UK)
Thank you to Netgalley and John Murray Press for this ARC copy

This is a real enigma of book, A Rubik's cube of unravelling narrative. The MC is an antiquarian book dealer who seems to do little that has actually anything to do with the buying and selling of books. He is a man with influence and at least some money who has influential friends and for whom intercontinental travel is par for the course.

His introduction to the Gun island and the gun merchant occurs as a desire to unravel a mystery
fook bood
Jul 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I think this has to be the shortest novel by Amitav Ghosh that I have read. Reading Amitav Ghosh almost after a year was certainly divine and heartwarming. Coming to the novel, ‘Gun Island’ was a spin-off of the magnificent ‘The Hungry Tide’. Initially, I wasn’t aware of this continuation, however, the moment the narrator took names of Kanai Dutt, Piyali, Nilima; nostalgia struck me. It took me back to the New Year’s eve I spent relishing the menacing beauty of Sundarbans. Similarly, the story o ...more
S M Shahrukh
A disappointing novel from one of my favourite Bengali authors who write in English.

Ghosh seemed to be dealing with too many things - Legends of Bengali Folklore, Climate Change, Human Migrations, Human trafficking, Supernatural happenings, the past connecting to the present - all these created a hodge-podge of a novel, hardly a fiction, way too many non-fiction commentaries. Climate change and human trafficking-related issues elaborated are illuminating but the plot with the characters didn't
Aug 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love Amitav Ghosh, and his new book has only made me love him more. Like earlier books, Ghosh has told a beautiful story that spans centuries. He weaves in so much historical detail without sacrificing the beauty of the storytelling. This story begins with a fascinating story of a seventeenth century gun merchant from Bengal but then weaves in Bengali migrants living and working in Venice, the journeys of global migrants today, and the climate catastrophe. Ghosh humanizes the migrants, and he ...more
Douglas Osler
This book has an unusual setting,in Venice and Bengal which us used to advantage by the author. The timing of the story flows effortlessly from romantic times to the reality of modern issues such as immigration which is handled superbly, The rather idealists c central character is aided in his journey by two very different women. He is prone to take magical stories too seriously but his belief that all is planned and for a purpose is proved to be right. The is book us beautifully written with mu ...more
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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
“Well what can you expect?' I retorted. 'Those people are, as you say, simple and uneducated. Wasn't it Marx who said that peasants are like sacks of potatoes? Is it surprising that their lives are filled with gods and goddesses and demons?'
She glanced at me again. 'You really do not care for ordinary people, do you?'
The imputation of elitism made me bridle. 'Why you're quite wrong!' I said. 'I consider myself a person of the left. As a student I was a Maoist fellow traveller. I've always stood in solidarity with peasants and workers.'
'Oh yes, certo!' she said, suppressing a giggle. 'I knew many Maoists and fellow travellers in Italy. They had every regard for the bellies and bodies of poor people - but not, I think, for what is in their heads.”
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