New Amitav Ghosh novel: ‘Sea of Poppies’

Now out is the new novel by Amitav Ghosh, SEA OF POPPIES (London: John Murray, 2008). Set in the nineteenth century in the days of the East India Company, it is the first volume of the trilogy announced some time back in this blog. The whole thing will be known as the ‘Ibis trilogy’, after the imaginary vessel featuring here in the first instalment.
The book has been reviewed (unsigned) in THE ECONOMIST:
‘The call of the running tide’ – 22 May 2008 (print edition p. 98)

‘Rich and panoramic, Amitav Ghosh’s latest novel—the first of a promised trilogy—sees this Indian author on masterly form. Set in 1838, just before the opium wars between Britain and China, “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. At the book’s heart lies the Ibis, a former slave ship, bound from Calcutta to Mauritius. As the story progresses, the vessel becomes home to a diverse set of migrants, each drawn with an assuredly descriptive hand (…)

As well as his ability to portray character (even minor players are drawn with astonishing breadth) Mr Ghosh is renowned for giving his novels a haunting sense of place. “The Hungry Tide”, his previous work, drew plaudits for its portrayal of the beauty of the Sundarbans, the tide country of the Ganges delta.


The only flaw in “Sea of Poppies” is that as the introduction to the trilogy it ends rather abruptly. The readers who have been hooked by the adventures of the jahaj-bhais will have to wait until 2010, when the second instalment is due to be published, to meet them once more.’


Note added 12 Aug 08:

I have now reviewed SEA OF POPPIES, comparing it (favourably) with Rushdie’s THE ENCHANTRESS OF FLORENCE – see blog entry for 2 Aug 08.


See also two very interesting pieces by PRIYAMVADA GOPAL:

 a review (‘Seeds of Hope’)

and an interview with Ghosh (‘Confronting the past’):
both in:
THE HINDU, Sunday 1 June 08
See also another important interview with Ghosh by Jai Arjun Singh
(20 June 08)
A GLOSSARY of Indian (and other Asian) words in this novel – Ghosh here
follows what Vikram Chandra has done for his ‘Sacred Games’ –
may be found on Amitav Ghosh’s official site at:


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