Daily Archives: July 13, 2009

Mailbox Monday – July 13, 2009

mailboxMonday1 Last week I did not forget about Mailbox Monday…I just had no books arrive at my house. That has not happened in a long, long time…but is was not unexpected. I have been requesting less and turning down more books of late in an effort to “catch up” with my review books. That said, I found a few books and other goodies came my way this past week.

Bookreporter.ComPrizePack2009-07-13 Bookreporter.Com Beach Bag of Books is giving away prize packs all summer. I entered the drawing and won a terrific prize which included three books and a ton of other beachy goodies:

Bookreporter.ComPrizePack022009-07-13

A cotton beach bag filled with a lime slice of Kleenex, an extra long striped beach blanket, a pair of flip flops, a hot pink relax-a-mat, fishy Boca Clips, Banana Boat Sport Performance (SPF 50) spray sunscreen, and a colorful coffee mug. Wow! And here are the books:

Unit The Unit by Nini Holmqvist is a dystopian novel which is ‘a gripping exploration of a society in the throes of a system geared toward eliminating those who do not contribute by conventional means, in which the “dispensable” ones are convinced under gentle coercion of the importance of sacrificing for the “necessary” ones.‘ This is a story which purports to look deeply into the female psyche as well. By the way, Claire at Blue Archipelago has just reviewed this book.

DriftwoodSummer Driftwood Summer by Patti Callahan Henry looks like a fun summer read. It is a novel about three sisters – ‘their loves, their rivalries, and the events of one summer that changes their lives.‘ I am the youngest of three sisters, and this one is a book I think I’ll enjoy.

SummerHouse Summer House by Nancy Thayer takes place on the Island of Nantucket and brings together three generations of strong-willed women. Described as “beautifully textured,”a poignant testament to the enduring power of the bond between women,” and “absorbing“…this novel sounds like the perfect book to read in the hammock with a tall glass of iced tea.

I also received two books through TLC Book Tours:

DisobedientGirl Disobedient Girl by Ru Freeman looked far too good to turn down. The book flap reads: ‘Set against the volatile events of the last forty years of Sri Lankan history, A Disobedient Girl traces the lives of three characters whose interwoven fates and histories force them to answer life’s most difficult questions. Beautiful, haunting, alive, and brimming with truth, it is, above all, a novel about extraordinary circumstances that change life in an instant and the power of love to transcend time and place.‘ Freeman is a Sri Lankan writer who has been published internationally. To read more about her and her work, visit the author’s website. I will be reviewing and touring this book at the end of September. To see the entire tour schedule, visit TLC Book Tours.

PromisedWorld The Promised World by Lisa Tucker is due for release in September and I will be touring it on September 22nd (to see the full schedule visit TLC Book Tours). The back flap of this novel reads: ‘On a March afternoon, while Lila Cole is working in her quiet office, her twin brother, Billy, points an unloaded rifle out of a hotel window across from an elementary school closing down a city block.‘ This book, centering around Billy’s ‘suicide by cop’ promises ‘a tale of intimacy, betrayal, and lost innocence.‘ Tucker has written several other bestselling novels (to learn more, visit the author’s website).

Link The Link by Colin Tudge arrived from Marcia at The Printed Page who generously gifts her books to those readers who show an interest in them (read more about Marcia’s Read it Forward program). The Link is a non fiction book which tells the story of “Ida”…a perfectly fossilized early primate which is the oldest primate fossil ever recovered. The book flaps reads that The Linkopens a stunningly evocative window into our past and chnages what we know about primate evolution and, ultimately, our own.” Marcia didn’t love this one (it is pretty heavy on the science end of things), but there are some great reviews of the book on Amazon and on the blogs…so I am eager to give this one a go. Thanks, Marcia!!

What did you find in YOUR mailbox this week? To leave a link to your mailbox and to find other readers’ Mailbox Mondays, visit Marcia today at The Printed Page.

Sea of Poppies – Book Review

seaofpoppies It was Kabutri’s question that triggered Deeti’s vision: her eyes suddenly conjured up a picture of an immense ship with two tall masts. Suspended from the masts were great sails of a dazzling shade of white. The prow of the ship tapered into a figurehead with a long bill, like a stork or a heron. There was a man in the background, standing near the bow, and although she could not see him clearly, she had a sense of a distinctive and unfamiliar presence. – from Sea of Poppies, page 7 –

Deeti, an Indian woman who grows poppies, has a vision of a ship – an odd vision because she lives 400 miles from the sea and has never seen a boat such as this…but her vision is a premonition and the ship has a name: Ibis. Thus begins Amitav Ghosh’s sprawling, historical saga Sea of Poppies. What follows is a story with a vast cast of characters whose paths ultimately cross enroute to the island of Mauritius aboard the Ibis – a former slave ship manned by a motley crew including an opium addicted captain, a freed American slave, and a foul-mouthed first mate with a penchant for cruelty. The voyagers include Paulette (a French woman with a sense of adventure who is fleeing an unacceptable situation in India), and Neel (a man who has been convicted of a crime he did not commit). But it is the Indian indentured workers who take center stage in a novel about caste, freedom, and human connection. And it is Deeti who becomes the central figure – a strong woman who marries beneath her caste and is respected by the other women aboard the ship.

The novel is beautifully imagined and captures the hopelessness of the opium factory workers, the daily lives of the villagers, the violence of ship law, and the diversity of an India in the mid-nineteenth century. Ghosh’s use of language in the novel is brilliant. Filled with strange words, pidgin English, and unusual sentence structure – the book at first seems unwieldy. But Ghosh succeeds where other less talented authors might not. The language, used with appropriate context, becomes almost like a musical score in a movie. Ghosh’s use of language demonstrates the way language can unite or divide people, and confuse or clarify situations. It is a powerful technique that works.

Historically, Sea of Poppies is set just prior to the Opium Wars and revolves around the British involvement in India and their trade practices exporting opium from India to China. Ghosh reveals the damage done by British colonial rule and the devastation wreaked upon the Indian economy, as well as society at large. Although apparently Ghosh’s creative inspiration was the indentured people of India, he says in an interview: “[…] once I started researching into it, it was kind of inescapable – all the roads led back to opium. The indentured emigration [out of India] really started in the 1830s and that was [around the time of] the peak of the opium traffic. That decade culminated in the opium wars against China.”

Ghosh is skilled at creating character…and in Sea of Poppies the characters are memorable and complex.

This was a personage of formidable appearance, with a face that would have earned the envy of Genghis Khan, being thin, long and narrow, with darting black eyes that sat restlessly upon rakishly angled cheekbones. Two feathery strands of moustache drooped down to his chin, framing a mouth that was constantly in motion, its edges stained a bright, livid red: it was as if he were forever smacking his lips after drinking from the opened veins of a mare, like some bloodthirsty Tartar of the steppes. The discovery that the substance in his mouth was of vegetable origin came as no great reassurance to Zachary: once, when the serang spat a stream of blood-red juice over the rail, he noticed the water below coming alive with the thrashing of shark’s fins. How harmless could this betel-stuff be if it could be mistaken for blood by a shark? – from Sea of Poppies, page 13 –

Although filled with adventure and interesting plot twists, Sea of Poppies is also about what makes us human in the face of crisis. One particularly memorable part of the novel to me was when Neel loses his caste and is convicted of the crime of forgery. Thrown into jail, he is forced to share a cell with an Asian named Ah Fatt who is hopelessly addicted to opium and lies in his own waste. For Neel, a man of stature who is fastidously clean, the situation is almost unbearable. And then he makes a self-discovery about what it means to care for another human being:

To take care of another human being – this was something Neel had never before thought of doing, not even with his own son, let alone a man of his own age, a foreigner. All he knew of nurture was the tenderness that had been lavished on him by his own care-givers: that they would come to love him was something he had taken for granted – yet knowing his own feelings for them to be in no way equivalent, he had often wondered how that attachment was born. It occurred to him now to ask himself if this was how it happened: was it possible that the mere fact of using one’s hands and investing one’s attention in someone other than oneself, created a pride and tenderness that had nothing whatever to do with the response of the object of one’s care – just as a craftsman’s love for his handiwork is in no way diminished by the fact of it being unreciprocated? – from Sea of Poppies, page 300 –

It was moments like these in the story which elevated it above the typical historical novel.

Some readers have found the ending of Sea of Poppies to be abrupt and unresolved. I would agree. However, this book is the first in a planned trilogy which may explain the ending. At any rate, Sea of Poppies completely enthralled me and I am looking forward to the next two books.

Readers who love world and historical literature, and who enjoy richly textured sagas will love Sea of Poppies.

Highly recommended.

5stars

Read more about the book and planned trilogy.

Read more about Amitav Ghosh and his work at the author’s website.

Read an interview with the author.

Read other blog reviews:

Farm Lane Books

7th Decade Thoughts

Page 247

Bookclub Classics

What Am I Reading

The Reading Life