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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.

©2011 Amitav Ghosh (P)2011 Brilliance Audio, Inc.
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
4 out of 5 stars
By K Cornwinkle on 11-30-11

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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4 of 4 people found this review helpful

2 out of 5 stars
By Saad on 09-11-13

Mediocre story, further ruined by the narrator

What would have made River of Smoke better?

The cast of characters from the last book.

You have a few new characters with interesting storyline, but overall the story is loaded so much with irrelevant information that it becomes tedious.

What do you think your next listen will be?

The next book of course. Hoping that's better.

How could the performance have been better?

Robin's accent is jarring and over the top. And most of his story is through letters he writes. Hard to picture such an accent for a letter.

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

Disappointment. Specially since the first part of the trilogy was so good.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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