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River of Smoke (Ibis Trilogy 2) by Amitav…

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

by Amitav Ghosh

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6404415,108 (3.97)1 / 331
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)

Recently added byLitaVore, private library, folivier, belldm, globulon, generalising, jasdeep, stefmagura
  1. 80
    The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet: A Novel 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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Showing 1-5 of 42 (next | show all)
Sequel to Sea of Poppies. I was more enthralled by the linguistic experimentation in the first novel, and the action was faster-paced, but this one packs an emotional punch via the intransigence of the British merchants behind the scenes of the first Opium War. A sickening historical episode that I knew nothing about before reading these novels, and now I can't wait for the third one to come out. ( )
  jalbacutler | Jan 10, 2017 |
I finished reading the first volume of the Ibis trilogy surprised at the abrupt ending and eager to find out more about the complex lives of the characters that Ghosh had introduced his readers to. That storyline is so lightly glossed over here that I still want to know more about them; but that’s not how I feel about the characters in this book. The richness of character and setting that I liked so much in Sea of Poppies shifts to a new location with only a few of the original characters remaining. And some of the characters show up briefly at the beginning of the book never to reappear. I guess they are just holding space until they come back in the third volume, although perhaps it too will jump into something new.
There’s still a lot of period detail, although more than once I felt that Ghosh was piling on details from his research that didn’t contribute much to the novel. There are some interesting items – the life of the traders in Canton before the Opium Wars, for example, and the elaborate gardens of the wealthy Chinese. But these are rather slight compared to the first novel. More serious, however, is the fact that the characters are, to me at least, less interesting and more contrived. Some of them, such as Neel, the Indian prince reduced to pretending to be a Bengali secretary, or Robin, the painter who seems to be there simply to narrate conversations in a voice other than the author’s, were never convincing or sympathetic. Only Bahram, the Indian opium trader who has risen to the elite of the Canton bourgeoisie, is interesting for his own story, and its end is a slow anti-climax.
What is good here is Ghosh’s detailed depiction of the machinations and rationalizations of the British opium traders when the new Chinese governor moves to block the import and sale of opium. Ghosh reports on historical figures and gives them arguments from period texts. The convenient new philosophy of the invisible hand of free trade justifies a vast drug trade and wealth. Anything in violation of trade is anathema, in spite of criminal laws or the effect of drugs on the populace, in spite of the complete prohibition of similar trade in Britain. It’s interesting to see that a few traders argued against the trade on moral grounds, making their profits in other goods, although their objections are forcefully overruled by the majority. And while the traders demand that the Chinese government stay out of the market, they don’t hesitate to call on the British government to send gunboats to enforce their access to the market.
The opium trade is the central issue of the book, but it also touches lightly on a variety of other moral issues, from family relationships, true identities and forgeries to the sex trade, all within the larger context of imperialism and commercial exploitation. But what is the convoluted storyline about the golden camellia? The unattainable, perhaps non-existent, mystery of the Orient?
As in the first volume, the use of language adds an interesting note to the storyline. From nautical slang to the pidgin English that different groups of traders use to converse among each other, the language itself represents the complex relationships between the Indian, Chinese, English and international traders and labourers. The language both unites characters across cultural barriers, and divides them from each other and from a deeper understanding that comes with a shared language and culture. While I enjoyed sometimes stopping to look up unfamiliar words – to find, for example, that the non-Chinese are restricted to living in Fanqui-town, or White-ghost Town – the sense is clear enough that the language doesn’t slow down the narrative.
So overall, some of the elements that made the first volume so interesting are still here, but I found the first volume much more engaging. I’m not sure I’d be looking for the third volume if this was the only one I had read. ( )
  rab1953 | Oct 4, 2016 |
I love these books! So interesting and image-filled! I know some people haven't liked this as much as Sea of Poppies but I don't see how you couldn't love River of Smoke if you enjoyed Sea of Poppies. ( )
  ltfitch1 | Jun 5, 2016 |
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 |
Showing 1-5 of 42 (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)

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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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