Dec 21, 2011

Found Books: The Opium War

Title: The Opium War by Julia Lovell
Hardcover: 352 pages; Kindle 
Publisher: Picador; First Edition edition (2011)

The full title is The Opium War: Drugs, Dreams, and the Making of China and I found it while browsing on the web. The impact of the early 19th Century war when China was forced to open trade to the west and import opium into the country is examined by the author to determine its effect on the China of today. I'd love to get my hands on this book; it seems the book may be critical of the present Chinese government for being too skeptical of Western countries today!

The Opium War reminded of another new book, an historical novel that also covers the Opium War, Amitav Ghosh's River of Smoke,  the title probably referring to the smoke from the smoking of opium.

Title: River of Smoke: A Novel by Amitav Ghosh
Hardcover: 528 pages; audio and Kindle  
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (September 27, 2011)

Publisher's book description: "The Ibis, loaded to its gunwales with a cargo of indentured servants, is in the grip of a cyclone in the Bay of Bengal; among the dozens flailing for survival are Neel, the pampered rajah who has been convicted of embezzlement; Paulette, the French orphan masquerading as a deck-hand; and Deeti, the widowed poppy grower fleeing her homeland with her lover, Kalua.

The storm also threatens the clipper ship Anahita, groaning with the largest consignment of opium ever to leave India for Canton. And the Redruth, a nursery ship, carries Frederick “Fitcher” Penrose, a horticulturist determined to track down the priceless treasures of China that are hidden in plain sight: its plants that have the power to heal, or beautify, or intoxicate. All will converge in Canton’s Fanqui-town, or Foreign Enclave: a tumultuous world unto itself where civilizations clash and sometimes fuse. It is a powder keg awaiting a spark to ignite the Opium Wars.

Spectacular coincidences, startling reversals of fortune, and tender love stories abound. But this is much more than an irresistible page-turner. The blind quest for money, the primacy of the drug trade, the concealment of base impulses behind the rhetoric of freedom: in River of Smoke the nineteenth and twenty-first centuries converge, and the result is a consuming historical novel with powerful contemporary resonance."

We listened to River of Smoke, the second in the Ibis Trilogy, on a long trip to Canada, but had to return it to the library before finishing it. Unfortunately, we may have to wait on another trip to hear the other half of the audio! The weaving of personal stories with history is compelling, though, and a major plus in this trilogy.


Zibilee said...

Both of these books sound amazing, and I just recently bought Sea of Poppies for my Kindle. It seems like a series that I am going to love! Great spotlight today!

Ann Summerville said...

These sound interesting. My friend just moved to China to accept a teaching position. I'll look out for these. It would be good to read about the country she's now living in.

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