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)
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.
Having spent a month in Burma the end of 2011 the book brought back many memories as many of the streets in Yangon are still named as they are in the book. Yangon is in such disrepair from many years of neglect it has the feeling of melting into the streets. The architecture, for the most part, is still that of the times of the empire. Magnificent but falling down. Was in Yangon for 4 days total but a wonderful city to just get lost in.
It is my impression that many Americans have little awareness of history or events that happen outside of our country. The idea of people in Asia moving between countries to find work, to marry, to deal with family obligations might seem contrived if one has not delved into the history of some of these countries a bit. In almost every major city in Asia there are significant populations of people from surrounding countries. Sometimes there of their own will and sometimes not.
Changes in Burma might happen rapidly if the military does not take outright control again. For a look at Burma in the latter part of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century you might like Emma Larkin's "Searching for George Orwell in Burma".
Excellent Historical Timeline.
I like the way the characters' stories mingle and the thread that wound through the history of Burma, Indian and Malaysia. I like the way the weaknesses and strengths of each character were developed so the reader understood why the character was behaving a certain way at a given time.
His voice was just so appropriate for all characters, it did distract from the story in any way.
The most memorable character was Dolly because you meet her almost from the beginning and she morphs through so many circumstances as the story evolves. She begins as a maid to the princesses and is exiled to India where she meets Rajkuma.
YES, BOTH SLOW AND PLADDING
HARD TO SAY BUT IT JUST WENT ON AND ON
I GAVE UP HALF WAY THROUGH AND I WOULD RETURN IT IF POSSIBLE. IF IT WAS A HARD BACK I WOULD DONATE IT.
The first thirds very good, second third okay. Last third - author gave up any pretense of having a real story and real characters and slipped into thinly-veiled lecture mode. Good performance couldn't save it.
This book held my attention and I really liked the story line. It was a little difficult in the beginning but Burma is an area of the world I know little about and it was fascinating to hear about.
Writer of The Majick Series
I might on a long road trip. I typically only read or listen to a book one time... There are too many great stories out there to rehash them.
Too many great characters to list just one.
This is well written and performed beautifully. You will not regret the journey.
The book did an awesome job of helping put me the reader in the frame of events occurring in that time period.
Dolly was my favourite character
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