Set in Burma during the British invasion of 1885, this masterly novel by Amitav Ghosh tells the story of Rajkumar, a poor boy lifted on the tides of political and social chaos, who goes on to create an empire in the Burmese teak forest. When soldiers force the royal family out of the Glass Palace and into exile, Rajkumar befriends Dolly, a young woman in the court of the Burmese Queen, whose love will shape his life. He cannot forget her, and years later, as a rich man, he goes in search of her.
The struggles that have made Burma, India, and Malaya the places they are today are illuminated in this wonderful novel by the writer Chitra Divakaruni calls “a master storyteller.”
©2002 Amitav Ghosh (P)2010 Brilliance Audio, Inc.
"Ghosh renders the polite imprisonment of the Burmese royal family in India and the lush, dangerous atmosphere of teak camps in the Burmese forest with fine detail––a perfect balance for the broad strokes of romance and serendipity that drive the story forward." (The New Yorker)
"Ghosh ranges from the condescension of the British colonialists to the repression of the current Myanmar (Burmese) regime in a style that suggests E. M. Forster as well as James Michener. Highly recommended." (Library Journal)
This is a big story written by one of my favorite authors, Amitav Ghosh. He gives the full sweep of history in this region in the 20th century, starting with the end of Burmese royalty, the movement of Indians into the culture of Burma, the horrendous toll of suffering and displacement during WW II, ending with the restrictive political climate of the new "Myanmar". It is told through the intertwined families of the book, a large and intertwined lot. I loved the attention to the characters, and the coming together of many different family connections that span the generations. The characters are quite unique, and the woman are very independent. Ghosh is a great story teller and I would recommend his other books as well. The book's length and detail draw you in, the narrator is very good and brings all the characters alive. It is not a book for someone looking for a fast moving plot, but there is a lot of drama throughout the novel and a fascinating book for a good, long listening experience.
Addicted to books, both print and audio-.
I read the book a few years back and loved it. It is beautifully written, very absorbing, and heartbreaking. This is a great way to re-read the book, or to read it for the first time. Simon Vance is one of the best narrators I've heard, and he does a marvelous job here. A fabulous listen!
Wow, I cannot remember why I selected this, as I had not read Ghosh before. It has been too enthralling an audiobook to put down! It has remarkable language portraits of India, Burma and Malaya, complete with smells, people, built environments, economics and politics. Sometimes it feels that too many historic events directly affect its players, but the reader is extraordinary and the novel's ability to evoke a place and time is superb.
I can appreciate the story - young boy grows up during a rough time but ends up becoming very successful, both in his business and personal life. I can even appreciate the author's ability to help you "see" the story. I feel like I got a real sense of how it was in Burma during this time. What I can't appreciate, are some of the long stretches of (seemingly) unnecessary details and conversations. I expect to have loads of details in an unabridged version, but sheesh, those details are usually helpful in telling the story. Not this time; instead I felt like there was a bunch of fluff added in. On top of that, the end read as if the author had gotten tired of writing, but still wanted to cover a 10? 20? 30? year timespan so he just threw it all out there with no clear indication of the year, or the amount of time that had passed. 2.5 stars for the idea of the story, -2.5 stars for making it sooo difficult to finish. (I actually gave up about 5 times).
The Glass Palace is beautifully written, with wonderfully-drawn characters and many touching moments. However, between Part 1 and Part 2 there was such a quantum leap in time and events that I went back to Audible to make sure that I had downloaded all the parts. There was a gap of 15 years, during which protagonists who were in different countries somehow got together and were married in some unexplained manner that was never clarified. Once I got past this, however, the story continued in a very satisfactory manner, and I am glad I stuck with it. Simon Vance's narration was superb, as always. I highly recommend this book despite its flaws. It is a portrayal of a venue that has not been well-covered in fiction--Burma (now Myanmar) and Malaya from early 20th Century to the 1970s.
I'm an avid listener. Audio books are a mini-vacation for me. They fill my "need to read" when I don't have time - which is most of the time. Great element of multi-tasking!
I expect that Ghosh intended this book to be a Ken Follett-like sweeping story of Burma, India and much of south Asia during the late 19th and early 20th century, but it reads more like a mood piece or memoir with its focus on scenery, social conventions and detailed analysis of family/caste relationships. The plot spans the lives of several families, starting with the deposition of the last Burmese king through the end of the 2nd World War, but isn't really plot driven, or character driven. It's more a series of stream of consciousness depictions of the thoughts of various related characters. The strong suit of this story is the beautiful, detailed description of the thoughts of the varied characters, illustrating the ways in which the misunderstandings between ruler and ruled fueled WW I and II. The author assumes that the listener is clever enough to understand some plot points without his spelling them out. He expects a lot from the reader, but that serves the progression of the book well. Simon Vance is always a great narrator, and does a remarkable job with the numerous dialects and languages.
Kea Giles (Asmus)
Only listen if you want a sweeping history of Burma and India. It's well-written and narrated with great detail, but so long! And I found it to be sad on balance.
I am a 65-year-old psychologist, married for 25 years, with two sons who are 25 and 22. I love reviewing the books and the feedback I get.
In the past several weeks I have devoted about four and a half hours trying to enjoy this book. But, when you are "trying to enjoy" something, what that means is that you are not actually enjoying it at all. Maybe it's cultural, as my wife is fond of saying. You do find yourself rooting for the young Rajkumar, but there is no suspense at all in this story. Clearly he is going to grow up and marry the lovely young Dolly (I am so sure that that is not how to pronounce her name; it's just phonetics). I bought the book because I thought I might learn something about Burma, and because Simon Vance is just a really good narrator. Call me an American, which I certainly am, but the book is not friendly to an American reader, in the way that Tim Hallinan's books, which are about Thailand, certainly are written from the American viewpoint. I love his books, and I am educated as well as being entertained by them. I learn quite a bit about Thailand and about Southeast Asia from them. Tim knows how to hold his audience in the way that Amitav Ghosh does not. This week I realized that I listened to Owen Laukkenan's book "Criminal Enterprise" in its entirety while I was in the middle of struggling through this book. Not a good sign. Maybe you have to be Burmese, although that sentence sounds preposterous to me as I write it. Maybe I should just listen to the hundreds of other audiobooks that I have loved and been entertained by.
An old broad that enjoys books of all types. Would rather read than write reviews though. I know what I like, and won't be bothered by crap.
The characters were well drawn and very vivid, so that you emphasized with them. I also enjoyed the descriptions of a country I knew very little about. It was an eye opening experience.
This book is similar to Hawaii by James Michener, or Sarum by Edward Rutherfurd. They all are sweeping stories of country's histories told thru a few families. The only difference is that The Glass Palace is only telling a few hundred years of history while the others go centuries.
So many characters I loved. I would have to say Dinu Raha was my favorite. As a young boy he is closer to his mother than father, and survives childhood polio. He loves photography and would be what we call today autistic in his singlemindedness. He falls for Alison the beautiful daughter of Matthew and Elsa and against all odds wins her love.
He also becomes the voice of Burma and a political prisoner for a time.
Just loved his character!
I like the name just fine. Don't think there is a better name.
This story really brought the world to me. The narrative is told by the individual peoples and made me realize that Britain and America's love for their country and belief in a "manifest destiny" nearly destroyed the people and countries they conquered.
A very moving tale of the rights of all people to live free in this world.
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