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“Sea of Poppies” is a historical novel written by Indian novelist Amitav Ghosh, published in 2008. The story is set in the mid-19th century, and it follows a diverse group of characters whose lives are intertwined by the opium trade between India and China.
About the Author:
Amitav Ghosh (1965-) is a notable Indian author. He is the recipient of Indias’s highest literary award, Jnapith, in 2018. Famous works of his include “The Hungry Tide”, “The Shadow Lines”, and “The Glass Palace.”
The novel is divided into 3 parts. It begins in the city of Ghazipur, India, Deeti, a young woman who is about to be widowed, is introduced. She is forced to burn herself alive on her husband’s funeral pyre, but she is rescued by a local businessman named Kalua. Kalua takes her to his opium factory, where she meets other main characters, namely Zachary Reid, an American sailor, and Neel Rattan Halder, a wealthy landowner.
As the story progresses, each of the character’s past and their motivations for being involved in the opium trade are gradually revealed. Zachary, for instance, was transporting a group of indentured servants to Mauritius when his ship was seized by British authorities, and he is forced to work on a different ship involved in the opium trade. Neel, on the other hand, is desperate to save his estate from bankruptcy, and he sees the opium trade as a way to make money.
Eventually, all of the characters end up on the Ibis, a ship bound for China with a cargo of opium. Along the way, they encounter a variety of challenges, both natural and man-made, including storms, disease, and mutiny. But through it all, they form unexpected bonds with each other and begin to question the morality of their actions.
“Sea of Poppies” is the first book in Ghosh’s Ibis trilogy and is praised for its vivid portrayal of life in colonial India, the opium trade, and the impact of Western imperialism on the region.