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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Sea Of Poppies


Sea of Poppies: A Novel
is the first in Amitav Ghosh's new trilogy of novels. The main part of this huge novel takes part on a ship called the Ibis. Set in the times of upheaval in the mid-nineteenth century in India, the book is a map of sites and a conglomeration of varied characters, from sailors and stow-aways, coolies and convicts, to zamindars, Indian rajas and widowed village women. The story of The Sea of Poppies is the journey of Ibis across the Indian Ocean to the Mauritius Islands.

Publishers: Penguin
Price: INR 399.00
Pages: 512
Paperback

I have been a big fan of Amitav Ghosh's writing ever since I first read The Shadow Lines: A Novel about 12 years ago !!! Since then I have been fascinated by Amitav Ghosh's strong writing and his detailed sketch of his characters that make us feel as if we are sitting together with the characters in his book and traveling with them on all their adventures and daily routine.

I picked up this huge book in the first trilogy and read the first paragraph, something which I always do while bringing home a book. Here are the first few lines from the opening paragraph:

"The vision of a tall-masted ship, at sail on the ocean, came to Deeti on an otherwise ordinary day, but she knew instantly that the apparition was a sign of destiny for she had never seen such a vessel before, not even in a dream; how could she have, living as she did in northern Bihar, four hundred miles from the coast? Her village was so far inland that the sea seemed as distant as the netherworld: it was the chasm of darkness where the holy Ganga disappeared into the Kala-Pani, 'the Black Water.'"


The size of the book may, in the beginning, intimidate a reader who is not used to reading such vast number of pages. But as the first few pages start turning, you are soon engrossed in a book that has all the power to pull you inside the fast-paced story and the 'real-as-life' characters.

One of the main plus of the book is the strong character portrayal. Whether its a low-caste poor coolie from the rural background, or an Indian Raja who has become broke but continues to show off his lost splendour to fool the visiting Britishers, the courtesans of the Raja who are mostly behind the veiled windows and lattices, but who keep us entertained with their witty remarks and give us a glimpse into the life of a courtesan, the village widow who is now herself kind of an outcaste due to her loss of a husband, the labourers, the convicts....these and many more interesting characters who leap out of the book and pull us into their own world, forming a bond that stays on with the reader much after the last page has been finished.

As I read the last line of the last page, I knew this would be the beginning of a long wait for the next in the trilogy. And I have been checking with bookstores and publishers ever since.

This is definitely a must-read for every book lover anywhere in the world.

My ratings: 5/5


- Debolina Raja Gupta