Wednesday, November 30, 2011

And now... The much awaited River of Smoke by Amitav Ghosh

River of SmokeRiver of Smoke by Amitav Ghosh
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Excellent sequel - lots of it is still about language and communicating and error and chance. It reads like a big vortex of historical, as well as personal events, but I feel it is more controlled and metered in its impact than Sea of Poppies, which was like a whirlwind of color, language and passion colliding over 500 pages of text. In fact, much of the novel is comprised of correspondence - between the characters, the political figures, the merchants and the government, to the point that it almost forms a novel within a novel. That creates an interesting contrast to the narration of the events presented as unfolding "in real time", without taking away the build up of the tension to the end of the part of the trilogy. Finally, some of the narrative is told or summoned up in pictorial form, whether by the lay person or the trained professional. This is probably not the place to delve into communication theory, but like the historical novels of Umberto Eco, Ghosh's narratives are multilayered and semantically complex, especially if the reader is inclined to dwell on issues of meaning and their consequence.

Another huge area of interest for me in this book is the history of China (being involved in Chinese medical arts), and little that I formally know about China's history, the book brings it to the reader in a vivid and engaging form that makes for a fine introduction to further study.

I am truly looking forward to the final installment of the trilogy - it is definitely some of the best and most fascinating reading of he past 2 years.

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