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Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh

At the heart of this vibrant saga is a vast ship, the Ibis. The ship's destiny is a tumultuous voyage across the Indian Ocean; its purpose is to fight China's vicious nineteenth-century Opium Wars. As for the crew, they are a motley array of sailors and stowaways, coolies and convicts. In a time of colonial upheaval, fate has thrown a diverse cast of Indians and Westerners together on board, from a bankrupt raja to a widowed tribeswoman, from a mulatto American freedman to a freespirited 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. An unlikely dynasty is born, which will span continents, races, and generations. The first in an epic trilogy, this historical adventure spans the lush poppy fields of the Ganges, the rolling high seas, the backstreets of Canton. But it is the panorama of characters, whose diaspora encap sulates the vexed colonial history of the East itself, that makes Sea of Poppies so breathtakingly alive--a masterpiece from one of the world's finest novelists.

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