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River of Smoke (Ibis Trilogy 2) by Amitav…
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River of Smoke (Ibis Trilogy 2) (original 2011; edition 2012)

by Amitav Ghosh

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5754217,226 (3.97)1 / 329
Member:otterley
Title:River of Smoke (Ibis Trilogy 2)
Authors:Amitav Ghosh
Info:John Murray Publishers (2012), Paperback, 592 pages
Collections:Untitled collection
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River of Smoke by Amitav Ghosh (2011)

  1. 80
    The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet by David Mitchell (Tinwara)
    Tinwara: Mitchells book is set in a similar enclave: the island of Dejima near Nagasaki, where only Dutch merchants were allowed to trade (but not to enter Japan) Set in the year 1799.
  2. 00
    The Opium War: Drugs, Dreams and the Making of China by Julia Lovell (wandering_star)
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English (40)  Italian (2)  All languages (42)
Showing 1-5 of 40 (next | show all)
Review with Flood of Fire for the Ibis Triology. ( )
  idiotgirl | Mar 6, 2016 |
'Sea of Poppies' was a bright, vivid and complex book filled with diverse characters converging on a ship called the Ibis. 'River of Smoke' takes place mostly in Fanqui-town in Canton during the 1830s. Fanqui-town being the main place foreigners go to conduct business, Ghosh's book mostly focusing on the opium trade aspect in Fanqui-town. Ghosh loves taking characters from other countries and throwing them together - such culture clash that would be difficult now, unimaginable in the 1800s. The first book in the series is a wonder, and with such a cliff hanger, it was a book that remained much more memorable than other books tend to be a few years after reading. But picking up the middle book in the series, I was confused as to why Ghosh decided to leave out many of the characters of the first book, or at most leave them off to the sidelines. (ie: new characters were writing letters to them like Robin in Canton is writing to Paulette in Hong Kong.) Naturally you can't help but be more sympathetic to someone like Deeti, rather than an opium dealer, no matter how much Ghosh tries. The first book is really before much of the action begins in anything resembling opium wars, so to introduce so many characters that aren't around in the second book seems like a waste. The second book is more about the politics and meetings on if the opium should be allowed into the country. It really wasn't even necessary to read the first book before getting to this one. It seems that Ghosh relies much less on the Pidgin language in this book than the other (it doesn't contain that Pidgin glossary this time around) so that does make reading it easier. But Ghosh does tend to throw in words from other languages that makes understanding sentences a little hazy (like my complaint with the first book --footnotes would have been great.) I can't imagine any fan of the first book not being a little disappointed with this one (mainly in the case of characters), though it is much better than I'm making it seem. The unanswered question I had from the first book was not answered in the second, so maybe in the third? It will be a while before I get around to it and I don't think the characters from the second book will be as memorable. But that 'flood of fire' is coming and I'm looking forward to it. ( )
  booklove2 | Dec 31, 2015 |
The book I wanted to read was the one about the continuing adventures of the people from Sea of Poppies. River of Smoke is not that book.

As it turns out, neither book is about the people, it's about opium. Sea of Poppies is populated by people in India involved somehow in the growing and processing of the poppies. River of Smoke is about the opium trade in Canton, and the smuggling trade which has grown up around it.

The time is of the first Opium War between the British and China. Western intervention being what it is, makes this war about trade expansion regardless of the invaded country's desires. Selfish, infuriating Westerners.

Ghosh's details and characters are so much fun to read. His research touches a period of time, and an event, I knew nothing about and now want to know more about.

Writers like Ghosh are the reason I purposefully extend myself into international waters each May. They expand my horizons and expose me to new things.

If you like Sea of Poppies, you will like River of Smoke. ( )
1 vote AuntieClio | May 17, 2015 |
For some reason, it was disorienting for me to have this sequel to Sea of Poppies begin far into the future with everyone settled in a satisfactory way (maybe). I assumed that this would be clarified at some point in the narrative, but it wasn't. Instead, a bunch of characters make their way, separately, to Canton. New characters join and become important to the narrative, but other characters are only alluded to and left to their own devices somewhere else. One of the character insertions that really annoyed me was Robin - a half caste son of a semi-famous painter. He seemed to have been inserted in the story just so he could become a disinterested observer to the events in Canton. Well, that and provide some light entertainment as he describes his search for a "Friend."
Meanwhile, in Canton, we are treated to an up close and personal view of the machinations of the British. Desperate to maintain the opium trade and to gain a foothold in China, they are willing to go to war and no personal sacrifice on the part of any of their trading partners is too great to keep them from this goal.
Mainly, I was overwhelmed by the descriptions of every blessed thing, from boats to clothing. These exhaustive descriptions were even included in "newsy" letters from Robin to Paulette (female amateur botanist not allowed into Canton). This tended to detract from the flow of the story. ( )
  nittnut | Jan 20, 2015 |
I have not yet read Sea of Poppies, but I enjoyed River of Smoke tremendously. Having read on the Opium Wars I was familiar already with the names of some of the real-historical characters, and Ghosh made them live again in this book. ( )
  NatalieSW | Jan 1, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 40 (next | show all)
On one level, the novel that arises from this formative geopolitics is a remarkable feat of research, bringing alive the hybrid customs of food and dress and the competing philosophies of the period with intimate precision; on another it is a subversive act of empathy, viewing a whole panorama of world history from the "wrong" end of the telescope. The real trick, though, is that it is also fabulously entertaining.
added by souloftherose | editThe Observer, Tim Adams (Jun 19, 2011)
 
Amitav Ghosh's two latest novels carry us deep inside the opium trade in the 1830s. River of Smoke is the second volume of a proposed trilogy. The first, Sea of Poppies, published in 2008, took us along the Ganges and to Calcutta, where the poppies are grown and the opium processed. River of Smoke follows the story through to Canton in China, where the opium is sold. The Chinese authorities are trying to prevent illegal imports of the drug, which has inflicted a plague of addiction on the Chinese population while making empire-sized fortunes for the irrepressibly shameless traders, mostly British.

In historical novels the past can sometimes feel tamed; hindsight, hovering just off the page, tells us that we know what it all added up to and what came of it (the First Opium War, during which British gunboats enforced a treaty opening Chinese ports to international trade, comes shortly after the ending of this novel). But Ghosh's novels somehow succeed in taking us back inside the chaos of when "then" was "now". His grasp of the detail of the period is exhaustive – he is so thoroughly submerged in it – that readers can't possibly remember all the things he shows them, or hold on to all the life-stories of all the characters he introduces. Both novels are cabinets of curiosities, crowded with items that hold a story of their own.
added by kidzdoc | editThe Guardian, Tessa Hadley (Jun 10, 2011)
 

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Deeti's shrine was hidden in a cliff, in a far corner of Mauritius, where the island's eastern and southern shorelines collide to form the wind-whipped dome of the Morne Brabant.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0374174237, Hardcover)

A Washington Post Notable Fiction Book for 2011

The Ibis, loaded to its gunwales with a cargo of indentured servants, is in the grip of a cyclone in the Bay of Bengal; among the dozens flailing for survival are Neel, the pampered raja who has been convicted of embezzlement; Paulette, the French orphan masquerading as a deck-hand; and Deeti, the widowed poppy grower fleeing her homeland with her lover, Kalua.

The storm also threatens the clipper ship Anahita, groaning with the largest consignment of opium ever to leave India for Canton. And the Redruth, a nursery ship, carries Frederick “Fitcher” Penrose, a horticulturist determined to track down the priceless treasures of China that are hidden in plain sight: its plants that have the power to heal, or beautify, or intoxicate. All will converge in Canton’s Fanqui-town, or Foreign Enclave: a tumultuous world unto itself where civilizations clash and sometimes fuse. It is a powder keg awaiting a spark to ignite the Opium Wars.

Spectacular coincidences, startling reversals of fortune, and tender love stories abound. But this is much more than an irresistible page-turner. The blind quest for money, the primacy of the drug trade, the concealment of base impulses behind the rhetoric of freedom: in River of Smoke the nineteenth and twenty-first centuries converge, and the result is a consuming historical novel with powerful contemporary resonance. Critics praised Sea of Poppies for its vibrant storytelling, antic humor, and rich narrative scope; now Amitav Ghosh continues the epic that has charmed and compelled readers all over the globe.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:58:43 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Amid a cyclone in the Bay of Bengal, three vessels, and the diverse occupants within, converge on Canton's Fanqui-Town, or Foreign Enclave, which is a powder keg awaiting a spark to ignite the Opium Wars.

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