Shortlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize
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.
Deeti’s shrine was hidden in a cliff, in a far corner of Mauritius, where the island’s western and southern shorelines collide to form the wind-whipped dome of the Morne Brabant. The site was a geological anomaly – a cave within a spur of limestone, hollowed out by wind and water – and there was nothing like it anywhere else on the mountain. Later Deeti would insist that it wasn’t chance but destiny that led her to it – for the very existence of the place was unimaginable until you had actually stepped inside it.
“Brilliantly done…A monumental tribute to the pain and glory of an earlier era of globalization…There will be more, undoubtedly, when the final installment of the Ibis trilogy arrives. I can hardly bear to wait.”---The Washington Post
“Gripping…Ghosh has made humanely clear the cold cynicism of the Opium Wars.”---Richard Eder, The Boston Globe
“Ghosh continues to amaze. Few authors since Melville and Joyce have excelled at both rambunctious, rangy linguistic play and deeply and lovingly observed human insight like this.”---Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Masterful…River of Smoke is a wonderful mixture of people, places, and story that captures a moment in history like an insect snared in amber.”---Seattle Post-Intelligencer
“Wonderful…[Gosh] is creating one of the best historical narratives in recent memory.”---Time Out (New York)
A NovelThe Ibis Trilogy