Wow. I’m trying to think of another book that introduces several different characters, makes me care about each one in different ways, somehow brings them all together without seeming too coincidental and leaves me wanting to read the next two books in the trilogy.
In a very Dickensian manner, Mr. Ghosh introduces us to Dheeti, Zachary, Paulette, and Jodu. They serve as the four main characters in the book. The supporting characters are so strong and well developed it is tricky to determine who the protagonists are. For me, a character-driven reader, this was like eating at a buffet. There were characters developing, evolving, surprising, and failing, throughout this book that it propelled me to keep reading.
What unites the characters is the opium trade and British colonization of India. This connection was very subtly developed that I didn’t feel Mr Ghosh was being heavy-handed with revealing the horrors of the opium trade and the unethical system of colonization. While I thought I knew about the opium trade, I also thought China was the base for it. Not so. And to see the colonial system in action gave me several moments of eye-popping horror. Not that I’ve ever been pro-colonization, but I’ve seen the system in play, mostly I’ve just heard about it.
While this is one of the longest books I’ve read in awhile, I never felt tired of the book. There was never a slow moment. It had everything I was looking for, not only for entertainment but for intellectual stimulation as well. There’s now several topics I would like to look up. This rarely happens for me when it comes to reading fiction. I’m glad that there’s other book in this series because these characters have endeared themselves to me and the cliffhanger of an ending is killing me.
I HIGHLY recommend this book for all the reasons above. I don’t know why more college professors don’t teach this in a global literature or post-colonial course. It’s also great for book clubs because of the deep bench of characters there’s a lot to discuss not including the topics, themes, and actions throughout. What can I say? It’s just a great piece of writing.