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.
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).
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!
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.
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.
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.
FANTASTIC book! Couldn't stop listening. Now, can't stop thinking about it. I did not find the narrative too long. I would highly recommend this book.
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".
I simply can't listen to Simon Vance reading this book about a boy from India in Burma. I completely enjoyed Vance's performances of other books, especially the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series, so I did not hesitate to buy this. Unfortunately, I had just finished listening to The Far Pavilions, set in India and perfectly rendered by Vikas Adam. His accents were marvelous. I would not know if they were completely accurate, but I do know that Simon Vance sounding like an elderly Scandinavian is all wrong to read The Glass Palace.
Really a family history intertwined with Burmese history rather than a novel of real personal growth or significant challenges.
Every scene was told with the same reporter style so it was somewhat difficult to get emotionally caught-up. Overall the story (history) was compelling.
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