Shortlisted for the Booker Prize 2008: a stunningly vibrant novel from Amitav Ghosh.
At the heart of this epic saga, set just before the Opium Wars, is an old slaving-ship, The Ibis. Its destiny is a tumultuous voyage across the Indian Ocean, its crew a motley array of sailors and stowaways, coolies and convicts.
In a time of colonial upheaval, fate has thrown together a truly diverse cast of Indians and Westerners, from a bankrupt Raja to a widowed villager, from an evangelical English opium trader to a mulatto American freedman. As their old family ties are washed away they, like their historical counterparts, come to view themselves as jahaj-bhais or ship-brothers. An unlikely dynasty is born, which will span continents, races and enerations.
The vast sweep of this historical adventure spans the lush poppy fields of the Ganges, the rolling high seas, and the exotic backstreets of China. But it is the panorama of characters, whose diaspora encapsulates the vexed colonial history of the East itself, which makes Sea of Poppies so breathtakingly alive a masterpiece from one of the world's finest novelists.
All these aspects [history, rhetoric, politics, beliefs, religion, family, love, sexuality] are exuberantly explored and celebrated in Sea of Poppies, but none more so than language - Adelaide Advertiser
Ghosh's story-telling is variously colourful, engrossing and detailed, and at times it smack of romantic fiction and magic realism - The Canberra Times
Set sail for an epic adventure on the high seas in this gripping tale... The acclaimed Ghosh has a gift of storytelling, and has worked his considerable magic in this first volume of his trilogy. Readers will be clamouring for the second instalment. - The Courier Mail
This complex, sweeping, epic adventure set in 19th-century India...Sea of Poppies paints a colourful picture of life in colonial South-East Asia. - Herald Sun
Sea of Poppies is a sprawling adventure with a cast of hundreds and numerous intricate stories encompassing poverty and riches, despair and hope, and the long-fingered reach of the opium trade. - The Economist
Amitav Ghosh was born in Calcutta in 1956. He grew up in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and India. He studied at the universities of Delhi and Oxford and published the first of eight novels, The Circle of Reason in 1986. He currently divides his time between Calcutta, Goa and Brooklyn. The first novel in his Ibis trilogy, Sea of Poppies, was shortlisted for the Man Booker prize.