The Ibis, loaded to its gunwales with a cargo of indentured servants, is in the grip of a cyclone in the Bay of Bengal; among the dozens flailing for survival are Neel, the pampered raja who has been convicted of embezzlement; Paulette, the French orphan masquerading as a deck-hand; and Deeti, the widowed poppy grower fleeing her homeland with her lover, Kalua.
The storm also threatens the clipper ship Anahita, groaning with the largest consignment of opium ever to leave India for Canton. And the Redruth, a nursery ship, carries Frederick "Fitcher" Penrose, a horticulturist determined to track down the priceless treasures of China that are hidden in plain sight: its plants that have the power to heal, or beautify, or intoxicate. All will converge in Canton's Fanqui-town, or Foreign Enclave: a tumultuous world unto itself where civilizations clash and sometimes fuse. It is a powder keg awaiting a spark to ignite the Opium Wars.
Spectacular coincidences, startling reversals of fortune, and tender love stories abound. But this is much more than an irresistible page-turner. The blind quest for money, the primacy of the drug trade, the concealment of base impulses behind the rhetoric of freedom: in River of Smoke the nineteenth and twenty-first centuries converge, and the result is a consuming historical novel with powerful contemporary resonance. Critics praised Sea of Poppies for its vibrant storytelling, antic humor, and rich narrative scope; now Amitav Ghosh continues the epic that has charmed and compelled readers all over the globe.
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Off the easternmost coast of India, in the Bay of Bengal, lies the immense labyrinth of tiny islands known as the Sundarbans. For settlers here, life is extremely precarious. Attacks by tigers are common. Unrest and eviction are constant threats. At any moment, tidal floods may rise and surge over the land, leaving devastation in their wake.
In this place of vengeful beauty, the lives of three people collide. Piya Roy is a marine biologist, of Indian descent but stubbornly American, in search of a rare, endangered river dolphin. Her journey begins with a disaster when she is thrown from a boat into crocodile-infested waters. Rescue comes in the form of a young, illiterate fisherman, Fokir. Although they have no language between them, they are powerfully drawn to each other, sharing an uncanny instinct for the ways of the sea.
Piya engages Fokir to help with her research and finds a translator in Kanai Dutt, a businessman from Delhi whose idealistic aunt and uncle are longtime settlers in the Sundarbans. As the three launch into the elaborate backwaters, they are drawn unawares into the hidden undercurrents of this isolated world, where political turmoil exacts a personal toll as powerful as the ravaging tide.
From the national bestselling author of Gun Island, The Hungry Tide was a winner of the Crossword Book Prize and a finalist for the Kiriyama Prize.
“A great swirl of political, social, and environmental issues, presented through a story that’s full of romance, suspense, and poetry.”—The Washington Post
“Masterful.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Opening in Calcutta in the 1960s, Amitav Ghosh’s radiant second novel follows an English family and a Bengali family as their lives intertwine across the generations in both tragic and comic ways. The narrator, Indian born and English educated, traces events back and forth in time, from the outbreak of World War II to the late twentieth century, through years of Bengali partition and violence—observing the ways in which political events invade private lives—in an “ambitious, funny, poignant” saga (A. K. Ramanujan).
“Amusing, sad, wise, and truly international in scope.” —The New York Times Book Review