This is for Historical Tapestry's blog challenge. P is for Poppies.
It is sometime during the early years of the 19th century, and tall-masted ships rule the seas. One ship, the Ibis, is a siren, drawing together misfits and heros as it travels from Baltimore to the mouth of the Ganges. Slowly, the disparate lives of Zachary, a mulatto freedman; Deeti, a brave Bengali peasant woman; Paulette, a vivacious Frenchwoman orphaned in India; Neel, a rajah fallen from grace; and so many others weave together, in and around the Ibis as she prepares to embark on her next journey.
Ghosh sets himself an ambitious task, introducing the reader to over a dozen memorable characters whose lives eventually will wind together in the belly of the Ibis, all while capturing the particular historic moment of Britain's Indian colonies just prior to the Opium Wars in China. This is a rich, rich, book, with memorable detail in every paragraph. At first, such ambition feels unwieldy, as the individual trajectories of the characters tarry in forming an overarching narrative. But Ghosh delivers on his promise, and with gusto. I dare anyone to finish this book without caring deeply about the main characters, and not hanging in suspense for the next book of what promises to be a superlative trilogy.