We do a lot of waiting in life… waiting for trains, waiting in lines at stores to pay money, waiting for the water to boil… all painful. But there are some waitings that are enjoyable. Full of anticipation. Like waiting for a friend to call. Or for spring to arrive. However, even such waitings are hard for me… have zero faith in the saying ‘Patience is a great virtue’. Rather agree with Ambrose Bierce whose saying goes, ‘Patience, n. A minor form of dispair, disguised as a virtue’. 😉
But I digress… At present I’m in such a state of impatient waiting. Waiting for the third and last book in the Ibis trilogy, by one of my favourite authors, Amitav Ghosh, to be published.
The first book in the trilogy, Sea of Poppies was published in 2008, followed by River of Smoke in 2011. In a nutshell, the books tell the story of the trade of opium in the early 19th century and the people whose lives, knowingly or otherwise, get entangled in its web.
The author paints the stories of individuals in vibrant colours in the background of the trade in opium, the cultivation of which was forced on the farmers of northern India and the consumption of which was forced on the population of another country, China, against the objections of their government. The snippets of history remembered from school days – the opium wars and the carving of the Chinese melon – come alive in the lives of these characters.
Sea of Poppies narrates the journey of the ship Ibis which carries opium from India to the markets of China, along with a group of passengers very unlikely to have met in any other surroundings. The intricate threads that bind these passengers to each other and to the central theme explain the circumstances which bring them to the good ship Ibis. And the drama of that voyage and the fortuitous turn of events bring the book to a satisfying end.
In River of Smoke, we follow the passengers on Ibis to their different destinations, some to new lands and new fortunes; others to age old conflicts and tensions. The characters are so nuanced that you will be hard put to root for any one side. While the conflicts of life throw them against each other, you as the reader recognises their innate humanness and can’t do anything other than sympathise with them.
If you are one to let your imagination soar like a kite braced by the breeze of words on a printed page, you will love these books and the rich and vivid tapestry of life they weave. And you will understand why I’m so impatient to get my hands on the concluding part of this trilogy. If we go by the timeline of the previous releases, the third part should be out in 2014. Waiting, waiting…
And to console myself in the interim, I have chosen Hungry Tide as my vacation reading. I have already read Shadow Lines and Circle of Reason, around when they were first published. 20 years ago? How time flies when you are having fun! 😉
You can read more about the Ibis trilogy and other books by Amitav Ghosh at his web site.
22 Jan 2014