River of Smoke : Ibis Trilogy

  • by Amitav Ghosh
  • Narrated by Sanjiv Jhaveri
  • Series: Ibis Trilogy
  • 22 hrs and 34 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

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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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Funky town

One of the obvious downsides is that there is no glossary ( apparently the print edition has one). So, even though I knew it must be something else (Fanqui Town as it turns out) I couldn't help hearing it as Funky town and imagining an appropriate Sino-GeorgeClinton beat. In any case, I LIKED the narration and thought Robin was hardly over the top in his Gayness. From the text alone, without Mr. Jhaveri's hilarious rendition, it is obvious that the 20th century has no monopoly on flamers.
I quickly got used to not understanding certain words and one can understand them adequately in context. I enjoyed that Ghosh pauses in his description of scenes to list things (I guess generally in Bengali or Hindi): "the alley was crowded with pudongs, khalisha, mradupamen, lascars, sepoys and phonkas." Particularly good are the lists when there are descriptions of food. It is easy (and a good exercise) to be drawn into contemplating the deep immorality of the opium trade and realize how recently this history was brushed aside since it was Heathen Chinee. This, of course, is why WE are now addicted to plastic crap. The Celestial Ones are having the last laugh.
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- K Cornwinkle "!!!"

Review of Part 2 of the Ibis Trilogy

I read a number of professional reviews of this book (not on this site) before buying and now that I've listened to it, I feel like I read a different book from them. This book is so very dissimilar from Sea of Poppies - that book introduced a variety of characters and we followed them on their complex interesting journey that brought them together and beyond. What I found in this book was soooo much description of the time in place (ie: Canton and the pearl river delta area). It didn't seem very much happened. Diti's story opened the book, but then disappeared. Included in this story is Ah Fatt, Neal and Paulette as well as some new characters.

While short on storyline, the book is full of descriptive details that seem very authentic and vivid. But for much of the book, you'll need to be content with that and anticipating a third book that may bring more action, since the author is leading up to the Opium wars. I feel like this book should be part 1 of the next book. But as I say, my take on this book is different than others, so you may feel differently.

I wish that this book had been narrated by the narrator of SOP. This narrator is good except his very over-the-top rendition of Robin. Yes, we get he's gay. That's not the problem, it's that he often sounds like a Saturday Night Live spoof of a flaming gay man. He sounds so modern. We get most of the description of Canton in letters Robin writes to Paulette, so we hear a LOT of that character. And I think that is why so much of description was annoying to me - a little of the Robin voice as they chose to do it goes a long way. Ghosh added some light-hearted humor with Robin (ie: his unlimited pet names for Paulette), but the humor was lost to me in the extreme performance of Robin. I would not recommend this book other than it continues the trilogy and probably will be needed to get the full experience of the third part when it comes out.
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- Jana

Book Details

  • Release Date: 09-27-2011
  • Publisher: Brilliance Audio