Amitav ghosh river of smoke summary

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amitav ghosh river of smoke summary

River of Smoke by Amitav Ghosh

In September 1838, a storm blows up on the Indian Ocean and the Ibis, a ship carrying a consignment of convicts and indentured laborers from Calcutta to Mauritius, is caught up in the whirlwind. River of Smoke follows its storm-tossed characters to the crowded harbors of China. There, despite efforts of the emperor to stop them, ships from Europe and India exchange their cargoes of opium for boxes tea, silk, porcelain and silver. Among them are Bahram Modi, a wealthy Parsi opium merchant out of Bombay, his estranged half-Chinese son Ah Fatt, the orphaned Paulette and a motley collection of others whose pursuit of romance, riches and a legendary rare flower have thrown together. All struggle to cope with their losses—and for some, unimaginable freedoms—in the alleys and crowded waterways of 19th-century Canton.
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Amitav Ghosh 1 - Introduction, Reading River of Smoke

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In autumn , Bahram Modi, one of Bombay's most profitable traders, puts together "possibly the single most valuable cargo ever carried out of the Indian subcontinent". Discreetly stowing thousands of chests of opium in his hold, Bahram sails for Canton where, in defiance of the Chinese authorities, opium has been smuggled into the country for decades. Fifteen prior sorties have steadily built up Bahram's wealth, while a long affair with the hostess of a kitchen boat has led to a son. That son is just one of a number of subtle subplots in the novel, which include a Cornish gardener charged with acquiring Chinese species for Kew Gardens. Accompanying him is Paulette, an orphan who, besotted by a mulatto sailor, flees the home of her benefactor, Mr Burnham, a bombastic British merchant in Calcutta.

River of Smoke () is a novel by Indian novelist Amitav Ghosh. It is the second volume of the Ibis trilogy. Contents. 1 Synopsis; 2 Plot introduction.
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Improbable plot turns too often tied its narrative threads together; its pastiches too frequently lapsed into stretches of creaking comedy. It is clear that Ghosh is fascinated by the history of Canton and, within it, of Fanqui-town, a tiny foreign enclave on the edge of a formidable but mysterious civilization that is beginning to resent the corruption of its people by opium. The outpost is populated by traders from around the world but dominated by the agents of the East India Company and surrounded by a flotilla of boats that ferry smuggled goods and serve as eating and pleasure houses. Entirely absent from the first book in the trilogy, Bahram is almost everywhere in the second, and serves as a channel for much of its energy. One of the few independent Indian businessmen in a trade controlled by the East India Company, he is both insider and outsider.

In Amitav Ghosh's Sea of Poppies , the Ibis began its treacherous journey across the Indian Ocean, bound for the cane fields of Mauritius with a cargo of indentured servants. Now, in River of Smoke , the former slave ship flounders in the Bay of Bengal, caught in the midst of a deadly cyclone. The storm also threatens the clipper ship Anahita, groaning with the largest consignment of opium ever to leave India for Canton. Meanwhile, the Redruth, a nursery ship, carries horticulturists determined to track down the priceless botanical treasures of China. All will converge in Canton's Fanqui-town, or Foreign Enclave, a powder keg awaiting a spark to ignite the Opium Wars. A spectacular adventure, but also a bold indictment of global avarice, River of Smoke is a consuming historical novel with powerful contemporary resonance.


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