The first in Amitav Ghosh a new trilogy of novels, Sea of Poppies is a stunningly vibrant and intensely human work that confirms his reputation as a master storyteller. At the heart of this epic saga is a vast ship, the Ibis. Its destiny is a tumultuous voyage across the Indian Ocean to the Mauritius Islands. As to the people on board, they are a motley array of sailors and stowaways, coolies and convicts. In a time of colonial upheaval in the mid nineteenth century, fate has thrown together a truly diverse cast of Indians and Westerners, from a bankrupt Raja to a widowed village-woman, from a mulatto American freedman to a free-spirited European orphan. As they sail down the Hooghly and into the sea, their old family ties are washed away, and they view themselves as jahaj-bhais, or ship-brothers, who will build whole new lives for themselves in the remote islands where they are being taken. It is the beginning of an unlikely dynasty.
The sweep of this historical adventure spans the lush poppy fields by the Ganga, the rolling high seas, and the exotic backstreets of China at the time of the Opium Wars. But it is the panorama of characters, whose diaspora encapsulates the vexed colonial history of the East itself, which makes Sea of Poppies so breathtakingly alive.