River of Smoke by Amitav Ghosh
A Novel

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Synopsis

A Washington Post Notable Fiction Book for 2011

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.

 

About Amitav Ghosh

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Amitav Ghosh is the internationally bestselling author of many works of fiction and nonfiction, including The Glass Palace, and is the recipient of numerous awards and prizes. Ghosh divides his time between Kolkata and Goa, India, and Brooklyn, New York.
 
Published September 27, 2011 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 529 pages
Genres: History, Action & Adventure, Literature & Fiction, Travel. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for River of Smoke

Kirkus Reviews

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Ghosh sets the second volume of his Ibis trilogy in 1838, appropriately enough, because at heart he's a 19th-century novelist with a sweeping vision of character and culture.

Sep 21 2011 | Read Full Review of River of Smoke: A Novel

The New York Times

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This sequel to “Sea of Poppies” unfolds in the Chinese trading outpost of Canton.

Oct 07 2011 | Read Full Review of River of Smoke: A Novel

The Guardian

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What begins, for the likes of Bahram Modi, in possibility and freedom, ends in chaos and embargo, with the trade stalled by the Chinese emperor's determination to rid his country of an opium plague and British desperation to defend the financial engine of colonialism.

Jun 18 2011 | Read Full Review of River of Smoke: A Novel

The Guardian

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hindsight, hovering just off the page, tells us that we know what it all added up to and what came of it (the First Opium War, during which British gunboats enforced a treaty opening Chinese ports to international trade, comes shortly after the ending of this novel).

Jun 10 2011 | Read Full Review of River of Smoke: A Novel

The Guardian

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The books are not meant to be a single linear narrative (if that had been the case then it would have been a single, very long book).

Jun 05 2012 | Read Full Review of River of Smoke: A Novel

The Guardian

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Amitav Ghosh conjures plotlines out of trading routes, which, in his supple and compulsive imagination, come magically alive as the conduits for human history;

Jun 19 2011 | Read Full Review of River of Smoke: A Novel

The Guardian

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Amitav Ghosh's two latest novels carry us deep inside the opium trade in the 1830s.

Jun 11 2011 | Read Full Review of River of Smoke: A Novel

BC Books

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While only one of the four story lines we follow through the course of the book deals directly with the opium trade, as all four centre around China, and specifically the section of the city of Canton where foreigners are allowed to dwell and the major trading houses have set up shop, each of the...

Sep 24 2011 | Read Full Review of River of Smoke: A Novel

Financial Times

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Ghosh’s story links the opium fields and factories of the Ganges and Calcutta with the trafficking of indentured workers to the sugar plantations of Mauritius and the smuggling of opium up China’s Pearl River.

Jun 24 2011 | Read Full Review of River of Smoke: A Novel

Christian Science Monitor

The Opium Wars bring new trials – and fresh adventures – to the cast of characters introduced in the rollicking "Sea of Poppies."

Sep 30 2011 | Read Full Review of River of Smoke: A Novel

Pajiba

Ghosh makes the place come to life, every detail adds another layer to the story, and yet you can never get enough of it.

Oct 24 2012 | Read Full Review of River of Smoke: A Novel

San Francisco Chronicle

If you read "Sea of Poppies," the first volume in Amitav Ghosh's hugely ambitious South Asian trilogy about the 19th century opium trade, with as much relish as I did, you must be anticipating this second installment with huge hopes.

Nov 01 2011 | Read Full Review of River of Smoke: A Novel

Seattle PI

While only one of the four story lines we follow through the course of the book deals directly with the opium trade, as all four centre around China, and specifically the section of the city of Canton where foreigners are allowed to dwell and the major trading houses have set up shop, each of the...

Sep 24 2011 | Read Full Review of River of Smoke: A Novel

DNA

These even include a chance meeting between two of the characters with an exiled Napoleon in St Helena: the conversation with the erstwhile emperor serves to bring us up to date with the context of the period, one that was to end, as the novel does, with the imminent outbreak of the so-called Fir...

Jun 26 2011 | Read Full Review of River of Smoke: A Novel

DNA

These even include a chance meeting between two of the characters with an exiled Napoleon in St Helena: the conversation with the erstwhile emperor serves to bring us up to date with the context of the period, one that was to end, as the novel does, with the imminent outbreak of the so-called Fir...

Jun 26 2011 | Read Full Review of River of Smoke: A Novel

The New Yorker

Online version of the weekly magazine, with current articles, cartoons, blogs, audio, video, slide shows, an archive of articles and abstracts back to 1925

Jan 09 2012 | Read Full Review of River of Smoke: A Novel

BookRack

The trilogy is no doubt is an adventure like never before yet none is there to haunt me like Laakhan, make my heart beat faster like Ila and Piya or make me wonder what Tribid would say.

Jul 29 2011 | Read Full Review of River of Smoke: A Novel

World Literature Today (The University of Oklahoma)

At the beginning of River of Smoke, the second volume in Ghosh's Ibis trilogy, Neel, the deported raja whose story begins in Ghosh's novel Sea of Poppies, remarks of a hurricane that it is "looking for new possibilities, creating fresh beginnings, rewriting destinies and throwing together people ...

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https://www.bookbrowse.com

- Publishers Weekly .

Dec 15 2014 | Read Full Review of River of Smoke: A Novel

The second of a proposed trilogy of historical novels about

Apr 01 2013 | Read Full Review of River of Smoke: A Novel

Reader Rating for River of Smoke
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