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Smoking Poppy (Gollancz S.F.) by Graham…

Smoking Poppy (Gollancz S.F.) (original 2001; edition 2001)

by Graham Joyce

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200793,797 (3.76)25
"Oh that Charlie of mine, how I wanted her back. Dan Innes hasn't seen his daughter for two years. Now he's been delivered shattering news from the British Embassy in Bangkok: the light of his life has been arrested as a drug smuggler, languishing in wait of a probably death sentence in a hellish Chiang Mai jail. Angry and terrified, seething with guilt, reprimands, and questions, he leaves London for Thailand, prepared to fight for his estranged daughter's freedom." "But Dan's visit to the jail is inconclusive, and soon he is following the faintest of trails up in the lawless mountain region close to the border with Myanmar, where opium grows abundantly and the dangers of nature are second only to that of man. It's a place where the fearless and the foolish wander - and disappear forever. To find Charlie, Dan must retrace her steps and brave the same traps that swallowed her. Here he will discover his own limits, his own temptations, as he drifts across the strange tides of an even stranger land, on a terrifying mission of self-discovery, blind faith, and salvation."--BOOK JACKET.Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved… (more)
Title:Smoking Poppy (Gollancz S.F.)
Authors:Graham Joyce
Info:Gollancz (2001), Edition: 1st edition, Hardcover, 240 pages
Collections:Your library

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Smoking Poppy by Graham Joyce (2001)



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What a terrific novel! I blasted through it, forcing myself all day yesterday to behave and do the things I had to do . . . Dan's daughter has gone missing, turns up in a jail in Thailand, having been caught smuggling opium. Dan resolves to go and see her and see if he can find a way to get her out and home, to his surprise first his friend from the bar he frequents for quiz night and snooker decides he's coming too, and then to his further amazements (and no little chagrin) his son, from whom he is pretty well estranged, due to his son's in-your-face evangelism, has also decided to come. Dan is a sympathetic, flawed Dad, but it is his friend and his son, the setting, and the situation that really gripped me. Joyce did his homework about the opium/morphine/heroin traffic nexus and obviously made a trip out there to see for himself, and describes it convincingly, even lyrically at times. There is just the slightest fantastical element, but to my mind, no more than one does occasionally encounter in Real Life, so called. Wonderful. ****1/2 ( )
2 vote sibylline | Feb 2, 2017 |
'Smoking Poppy' is not marketed as a fantasy, or even as 'magic realism', but rather as a straightforward novel about a man seeking his daughter, supposedly under arrest in Thailand for smuggling drugs. But this is Graham Joyce, so that's only the start of it.

Joyce's protagonist speaks in his own voice, as an ordinary working-class man from the English Midlands, though like many British people located somewhere on the political left, Joyce entertains the idea of the working class having the capacity to absorb high culture and deep introspective thought as well as quiz night in the pub and struggling with flatpack furniture. There is nothing wrong with this world-view, no matter how much some commentators might think it unlikely. The secondary education system in Britain in the 1960s and 1970s, when Graham Joyce was growing up, was quite capable of delivering that outcome; Graham himself was an example of it; and so it is quite reasonable that his protagonist speaks in that voice.

I mention this because the book is as much about what it means to be a father in Britain at the turn of the 20th century as it is about issues relating to the drugs trade in Thailand. Joyce observes that part of working class life that he experienced would be for children to exceed the achievements of their parents; and this is a big part of the inner landscape of his central character.

Indeed, it is the protagonists - Danny, his mate Mick and his son Phil (whose act of rebellion against his parents is to turn to evangelical Christianity in a big, zealous way) - who are the defining feature of this book. They are not characters from central casting, but instead well-drawn, ordinary protagonists coming to terms with a very alien environment. At the outset, when Danny and his party arrive in Thailand, initially to visit Danny's daughter in jail, their reaction to Thailand is straight out of the usual list of tourist expectations. But as they find that they have to go up country, their journey, seemingly a simple 'Heart of Darkness' narrative, becomes stranger as the main characters' complete unpreparedness for their new environment becomes plain.

They find Danny's daughter, but she has fallen into difficulty that far transcends mere addiction; and we are pitched into a setting where the real world and the spirit world interact. We pass into this state almost seamlessly. At the same time, the real 'outer' world, the world away from the poppy fields of northern Thailand, continues to intervene, in the form of a plausible and frightening drugs baron.

Graham Joyce always wrote stories that were grounded in the real world, and this one is no exception. Interestingly, although his protagonists come from Leicester - Graham's adopted home for the last part of his life - he does let slip a little bit of his past location in Derby, in the reference to a local psychiatric hospital, "The Pastures", which was the local such establishment for Derby rather than Leicester. Graham's whole output was well-grounded in the real world - in his corner of the real world particularly, as he kept returning to it and finding it fertile soil for his particular brand of fantasy - and 'Smoking Poppy' is no exception. The exoticism of main location is simply a framing device for a story about the important business of friendship, and family, and fatherhood. ( )
1 vote RobertDay | Aug 24, 2015 |
Joyce delivers here a richly detailed psychological portrait of family life and friendship as a father seeks his lost daughter in the wildernesses of Thailand. Intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually satisfying, this novel strikes at the heart of domestic relationships. ( )
  jemsw | Oct 6, 2009 |
My first book to finish in 2009, and an excellent way to start the year! I thoroughly enjoyed my first read from Graham Joyce -- the fast-paced events, hallucinatory images, well-drawn characters and good dialogue, the humor and sometimes caustic tone. It's a novel that tells several stories at once, and not least of all about being a father. ( )
  thioviolight | Jan 4, 2009 |
Smoking Poppy tells the story of Danny Innes, who one day gets a phone call saying that his daughter Charlie has been arrested in Thailand. It seems that she's now imprisoned and may be facing the death penalty. Even though Charlie and Danny have been somewhat estranged for a while now (since Charlie went off to Oxford, it seems), Danny is off to see what he can do. He is accompanied by a friend, Mick, and his son Phil, who has channeled his alienation from his father into religious zealotry. Their arrival at the prison only brings disappointment...it seems that the woman being held there isn't his daughter after all; she's stolen Charlie's passport. Rumors say that Charlie trekked into the opium fields...and that's really where the story takes off.

I won't say more, because it would spoil the read for anyone who may be interested, but Smoking Poppy was very well done. All of the characters were realistically written, the setting was exotic and real enough that you could picture yourself there. I couldn't put it down once I started.

I wouldn't advise this for people who are happy when writers spell everything out neatly and cleanly; this is a book that requires reader participation and lots of thought.

Overall, a fantastic story and one I won't soon forget. ( )
1 vote bcquinnsmom | Jun 24, 2008 |
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Daughter disappeared,
Son gone evangelistic,
Dad is in despair.

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