Sea of Poppies: A Novel (The Ibis Trilogy)
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The first in an epic trilogy, Sea of Poppies is "a remarkably rich saga . . . which has plenty of action and adventure à la Dumas, but moments also of Tolstoyan penetration--and a drop or two of Dickensian sentiment" (The Observer [London]).
At the heart of this vibrant saga is a vast ship, the Ibis. Her destiny is a tumultuous voyage across the Indian Ocean shortly before the outbreak of the Opium Wars in China. In a time of colonial upheaval, fate has thrown together a diverse cast of Indians and Westerners on board, from a bankrupt raja to a widowed tribeswoman, from a mulatto American freedman to a free-spirited French orphan. As their old family ties are washed away, they, like their historical counterparts, come to view themselves as jahaj-bhais, or ship-brothers. The vast sweep of this historical adventure spans the lush poppy fields of the Ganges, the rolling high seas, and the exotic backstreets of Canton. With a panorama of characters whose diaspora encapsulates the vexed colonial history of the East itself, Sea of Poppies is "a storm-tossed adventure worthy of Sir Walter Scott" (Vogue).
demands. Let us put our foot in it.’ With Paulette in the lead, they climbed up the slope and made their way into the thicket of tangled roots; although Baboo Nob Kissin’s pace was slow, he made no complaint until Paulette ushered him towards the swinging root that had served as her seat. Having inspected this gnarled offshoot, he made a dismissive gesture. ‘This place is not apt for sitting,’ he announced. ‘Insects are indulging in all type of activities. Ferocious caterpillars may also be
breath. ‘Baboo Nob Kissin – I propose to hold you to your words. In exchange for this locket I wish to obtain a passage on the Ibis.’ ‘Ibis!’ Baboo Nob Kissin’s mouth dropped open. ‘You are mad or what? How you shall go on Ibis? Only coolies and quoddies may be accommodated on said vessel. Passenger traffic is not existing.’ ‘That matters nothing to me,’ said Paulette. ‘If I could join the labourers I would be content. It is you who is in charge of them, are you not? No one will be advised of
eyebrows, he said: ‘Cu – cuzzanah? Now there you go again, Mr Doughty: that’s another word I don’t know the meaning of.’ This naïve, if well-meant, remark earned Zachary a firm dressing-down: it was about time, the pilot said, that he, Zachary, stopped behaving like a right gudda – ‘that’s a donkey in case you were wondering.’ This was India, where it didn’t serve for a sahib to be taken for a clodpoll of a griffin: if he wasn’t fly to what was going on, it’d be all dickey with him, mighty
fife-rail, but to the protective shelter of the after-shrouds. On reaching the shrouds, he turned to look eastwards where dark scuds of cloud had tumbled together to form a dense, steel-grey mass. ‘Storm-breeders if ever I saw them,’ muttered the Captain. ‘How bad do you think it’s going to be, Mr Crowle?’ ‘Nothing to sweat about, sir,’ said the first mate. ‘Just a few scurries and sneezers. Blow itself out by dawn.’ The Captain leant back to look up at the masts, which were now bare of all
hear Kalua out in silence, but now, her head boiled over with the heat of many inadmissible fears and she jumped to her feet in agitation. How could he imagine that she would agree to abandon her daughter forever? How could he conceive that she would go to a place which was, for all she knew, inhabited by demons and pishaches, not to speak of all kinds of unnameable beasts? How could he, Kalua, or anyone else, know that it wasn’t true that the recruits were being fattened for the slaughter? Why