Sea of Poppies
Fun, and slightly swashbuckling
Great fun, and though it lags in places, overall its a worthy read. Covers the adventures of a group of Indians (and colonials) around the time of the Opium Wars in the early 19th century. Includes tall ships, lots of opium, and a fair smattering of
sailor-talk using words that vaguely make sense until you look back and realise you have no idea what they mean: dolphin-striker; martingale; kippage.
The book is really a story of two halves. The first following the travails of the main characters in colonial northern India, and the second an exciting (and claustrophobic) sea journey towards Mauritius.
A great start to what will be a trilogy. Ghosh has a background in social anthropology, and the story is interwoven with interesting cultural sensitivities. Four stars only because the text is in places a little uneven, and its easy to get lost in the thickets of dialogue full of patois and contextual references.
But, perhaps this is not necessarily a bad thing. Books where we have to work at understanding characters' experiences are maybe more representative of real life ;) At least we don't feel patronised by the author.