Saturday, May 8, 2010

A Sea of Poppies

A Sea of Poppies Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh

My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Apparently the first of a trilogy, Sea of Poppies has a meritorious plot. Beginning in the poppy plantations of north eastern India in 1830s, the novel explores pre-mutiny India under the East India Company rule, and follows its protagonists into a ship crossing the 'black waters' on its voyage to the Mauritius islands. Ghosh has done his homework well; his description of opium plantations is credible and so is his depiction of the landed gentry of precolonial Bengal and its contrast with its unsophisticated but wily new masters. Geography of 1830s Calcutta is fascinating to read. Where the book falls flat is in its overly dramatic, bollywood script of a story line, in its mix of authentic period pieces of linguistic constructs with lamentably modern colloquialisms given to post-bollywood mannerisms (and tollywood Bengali of 1980s) that ring hollow to the cognizant ear. Attempting to be Rushdiesque, Ghosh has fallen prey to the Bollywood film script genre (if that exists!). I bet someone in Bombay would be calling Ghosh's agent by this time. It would be a spicy flick; a sad loss, given that Ghosh had a plot as strong as any of his previous novels.

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