Archive for June 2nd, 2017

Flood of Fire

Friday, June 2nd, 2017

Unknown-1By Amitav Ghosh

The Short Take:

As the third ¬†book in Ghosh’s fascinating historical novels built around the East India Company’s opium trade, this book brings closure to many of the ongoing storylines involving the fictional characters (there are plenty of real ones, too). It’s an intriguing read, but not for anyone who is bamboozled by words in other languages — there’s lots of pidgin phrases and words, but you can almost always tell the meaning by context.

Why?

Most of us are vaguely aware of the Opium Wars between China and England. This book (and the others in the Ibis Trilogy: Sea of Poppies and River of Smoke) not only fully opens your eyes but drops your jaw. The audacity and power of the East India Company are simply mind-blowing. They argued they had a God-given right to sell opium to the Chinese and no Chinese Emperor had any business stopping them. And, the British government and military backed them up.

Ghosh’s story is presented through the adventures of a number of characters — Indian, British, even an American. There’s romance, scheming, endless greed, shocking revelations, and some highly intriguing minor characters, along with actual battles.¬†Ghosh’s research is extensive and the most shocking statements by those insisting on the opium trade are drawn word-for-word from actual documents.

I readily admit this outing is not nearly as page-turning as his first book in the series, but it’s still a rewarding read.

A Little Plot:

There are several main plot lines involving an Indian sepoy in the East India Company’s army, the grieving widow of an Indian opium trader, and an ambitious American sailor. All three wind up sailing to China, involved, one way or another, in the outcome of the pending Opium Wars.

For more about Amitav Ghosh and his work, click here.

 

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