Sea of Poppies is the first book in the Ibis
trilogy and I simply can't wait to read the second. Unfortunately Ghosh took four years to write this one and according to an interview hasn't even started the next ones yet. I do hope he doesn't leave us hanging for too long because this book definitely leaves you wanting to read more.
Ghosh is a fantastic author and I truly want to read more of his books. Sea of Poppies, compared to the other books of his I have read (The Hungry Tide and The Glass Palace feels a lot more 'novelish' then his others. I feel he had a lot of fun with this one more so then his others.
Set just before the Opium Wars, the book takes you on a journey through India, drawing people from all over to bring them to the ship - the Ibis
. Sea of Poppies introduces you to the cast of characters that will propel the rest of the trilogy onwards through the coming journey. Each of them some how, has been touched by the poppy seed, the opium trade which the British colonists forced India into producing.
The British are represented by Ghosh as unsympathetic buffoons in a way that it a little too much like a caricature but I think this was his desired effect. He did not wish to give them personality or individuality. As a whole, they are not to be liked.
Immediately upon starting this novel, you are wrapped in the smells, the touch and the language of India. Ghosh seems to have swallowed a dictionary and has given each character their own way of speaking. The language of the lascars I found to be a bit confusing at first but after a while you find yourself immersed. What’s interesting I thought was how a lot of Indian words infected the British people’s vocabulary. “dekko” meaning ‘to look’ for instance is quite commonly used. Such words become self explanatory in the context used and each add a little bit of colour to the way Ghosh paints his story. Each character has a different way of speaking – from educated English, Bhojpuri, Hindustani, Lascari among others.
I really enjoyed this book, enough to give it a generous five stars. If GR had half stars perhaps it would have been a 4.5 instead. I think it will be a magnificent trilogy and I am just dying to read more. Maybe I will have to settle with reading the other books by Ghosh in the meanwhile.