RIVER OF SMOKE by AMITAV GHOSH(book review)

July 29, 2011 § 1 Comment

Intricate, detailed and beautiful.

The details they hit you, they tickle you and they mesmerize you. The book is like that statue which holds your breath and makes you forget yourself. Yet there is something lacking- the warmth, that which makes you curl up in your bed and forget everything else, except the tranquilizing world of the book. The problem is with expectations, Ghosh to me is not merely an author- he is a writer, he is a storyteller; He is that boy, that uncle, that aged R who you love to listen to.

One can’t but help being lost in the pidgin speaking world of Canton. The Pearl River, the avant-garde paintings and the opium all seem to spin around the ball room, pulling us, swaying us. We are at his mercy- we want more, it does not matter what awaits us, yet just when we think we are about to be hung or lost in ecstatic love, we are shoved rashly into a different world. Familiarity breeds contempt- if only I hadn’t read Calcutta Chromosome, The Glass Palace, The Hungry Tide and The Shadow Lines(currently reading).

The book takes us across oceans, rivers, cultures, people, love it has it all. The trilogy is no doubt is an adventure like never before yet none is there to haunt me like Laakhan, make my heart beat faster like Ila and Piya or make me wonder what Tribid would say. Each character is so fit for his part that I am left wanting that imperfection that makes him human and brings him alive. The character who for me is trademark Ghosh is Paulette aka Puggly. She is quirk, beautiful and smart. If only we could have had more of her.

The artist Robert Chinnery and his letters while being a very clever way to give a different perspective, do seem to yearn the secret ingredient and at a couple of places had me longing for more of Bahram Modi.

Neel, the erstwhile ruler turns into a Munshi and is a man of his own. Nowhere do you find evidence of a fall in station; The time spent locked in a cell seems to have sucked away the royalty and yet he maintains a poise which speaks of his breeding. Bahram Modi, his employer, paces him room, brilliantly dressed and imposing with Chi Mei, always lingering, haunting and comforting him.

The characters make the story. Considering the amount of intricate detailing and the gargantuan information thrown in, the book is inspired. It is amazing how he manages to make us sympathize and hate the same person- to narrate and to be unbiased is restraint which is worth admiring.

The book engages and presents a city like none other where men stride across a maidan and smuggle opium in boats. The author enunciates the sing-song language used to trade in Canton and recreates a melting pot like none other. The city with the awe-inspiring Commissioner Lin, who takes it upon himself to try to end the opium trade, its friendly locals, stuck up Englishmen, Indians and people from around the world, is an enchantment, painted in Chinnery’s grotesque ways.

The book is a must read. Especially if you have read The Sea Of Poppies. I have refrained from talking about the story, simply because it isn’t about what happens, but who make it happen. But, there is a part of me, that wishes he wrote like how he did before. It feels like my favorite teacher has become the school principal.

Rating:- 9/10

SEA OF POPPIES BY AMITAV GHOSH(book review)

September 7, 2009 § 20 Comments

Yes it is a nice book, yes I loved it. But on second thought, what happened anyway?

A disposed Landlord being sent to exile, a woman rescued from the pyre of her husband by a fellow from a lower caste , Opium(hence the sea of poppies) addicts , Opium harvesting , Opium wars(being mentioned) , ship and boats and well friendships across races and colours.

If this book(as it is) was written by anyone else other than Ghosh, I will dare say, it wouldn’t have been a hit. It’s not my favorite among his works(The Hungry Tide swallows that) but there is something about it which actually makes you like the book. Of course since there are a couple of sequels to follow, we are left to wonder.

Yet the ending is not that Strong, especially for someone like me, for whom “series” represents either the Happy Potter variety or the Blyton or the Christi variety. I felt slightly cheated, as if I was left in the middle of the ocean, no clue as to what I was doing there. Maybe the ship could have sailed a bit more, but it is the authors choice I wonder whats in store.

For those who are used to reading Ghosh’s book, there are no surprises in this one. The backdrop is Indian(and as usual has a lot to do with Bengal) and the characters are as usual well presented. There is always a variety in his characters and in the books which I have read(three I think) none of them are repetitive either in personality or in presentation.

Its pretty light(maybe because the other books which I am reading at the moment are way more serious stuff). I am pretty comfortable with his writing and the way he takes his stories. The 500 odd pages fly by, no drags anywhere. The book jumps ships pretty fast and its always nice to read things which make the world look like a small place.

Rating:- 9/10( as I said it is the ending!)

Image from here.

THE GLASS PALACE BY AMITAV GHOSH(book review)

July 28, 2009 § 14 Comments

Image from here.

The book takes us into the lives of three generations. The central character being Rajkumar . The book starts with the erstwhile Burmese empire being annexed into British India , where , as the rulers are on their way into exile Rajkumar (then about 11) falls in love with Dolly(about 10) one of their servants. Many years later , he goes to Ratnagiri(where the former ruler of Burma lives in exile) , finds Dolly and marries her. The story then evolves as it follows their children and then their grandchild.

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