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Sea of Poppies

Written by: Amitav Ghosh
Narrated by: Phil Gigante
Length: 18 hrs and 14 mins
Price: CDN$ 39.82
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Publisher's Summary

At the heart of this vibrant saga is an immense ship, the Ibis. Its destiny is a tumultuous voyage across the Indian Ocean, its purpose to fight China's vicious 19th-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 together a diverse cast of Indians and Westerners, from a bankrupt Raja to a widowed tribeswoman, from a mulatto American freedman to a free-spirited 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 vast sweep of this historical adventure embraces the lush poppy fields of the Ganges, the rolling high seas, and the crowded backstreets of Canton. But it is the panorama of characters, whose diaspora encapsulates 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.

©2008 Amitav Ghosh (P)2008 Brilliance Audio, Inc.

What the critics say

"Such is the power of Ghosh's precise, understated prose that one occasionally wishes to turn the pages three at a time, eager to find out where Ghosh's tale is headed." ( The Boston Globe)
"A writer of supreme skill and intelligence. " ( The Atlantic Monthly)

What members say

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Evelyn M Kloepper
  • 2009-07-27

ignorance may be bliss

I completely understand the concerns of previous reviewers with the terrible pronunciation of Hindi words and the poor East Asian accents in this audio book. I myself was very frustrated with the reader of Julia Child's autobiography who mispronounced the simplest French words. Having said that, not many Americans, myself included, will have a clue that anything is wrong. While that does not excuse the choice of a reader who is not familiar with those languages, it nevertheless would be a shame to miss this fantastic book.
Phil Gigante, despite his shortcomings, is a wonderful reader, giving each character a distinct voice. So my advice, if the accent problem will bother you, get the book from your library. If not, don't miss out on this fabulous adventure, which is the first of a trilogy (a fact that is mentioned nowhere in the description!). The subsequent titles have not yet been published.

24 of 24 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Debali
  • Chicago, Israel
  • 2009-02-03

Why Not an Indian Narrator?

I know some Hindi and Bengali, as, of course, does the author and his use of South Asian languages, while not intended to drive off English-only readers, is a pleasure of this novel for Indian readers. But this dimension of the novel is ruined by the selection of a reader who does not know and cannot pronounce the MANY indian words in the novel. This is a very serious problem and it isn't the reader's fault. Why was he given the task in the first place?
I would not have wasted a credit on this had I realized they had done this. I mean, would any reputable audiobook company produce an audiobook of an American novel read by a Englishman with an Oxford accent? I can't believe that there are not plenty of solid Indian readers, such as Firdous Bamji, capable of reading this novel well. As it is, everyone's time is wasted, not to mention my money!

19 of 20 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Linda G
  • Napa Valley, CA
  • 2010-01-03

Listen to this book!

I heard Amitav Ghosh interviewed on NPR recently and the interview intrigued me, so I downloaded Sea of Poppies. All I can say is that I cannot wait for my morning walk because it means that I am continuing on the adventure this book has taken me on.

I have about 3 chapters left and I am going to be very sad when it ends. This book will definitely be at the top of my top 5 list. The reader is also quite fabulous ... has all the various accents down, etc. LISTEN TO THIS BOOK!

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Greg
  • Brooklyn, NY, USA
  • 2010-02-19

The narration sinks the story

The reading really sinks Ghosh's story. I tried very hard to get past it because I was quite excited about the book, but Gigante reads every line as if he were narrating a film trailer. For a few sentences it's okay, but for a work as long as this it becomes very grating.

10 of 11 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • RB
  • Utah USA
  • 2009-06-15

Better listen to the preview. . .

. . . because the reading of this novel is very arduous. I wanted so much to listen to "Sea of Poppies" but I just could not get past the driveling narration. I found the narration so annoying that I had no idea what the story was about. Honestly, after about 30 minutes I just turned it off and breathed a sign of relief.
It would have been so much better with another narrator; one with a slower pace and particularly one who had an Indic accent to add to the tone of the story.

15 of 17 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Thomas
  • Newport, VT, USA
  • 2008-12-25

Good Book, Nice Reader- Hanging Ending

As a book: The story was Interesting. It held my interest throughout. The ending did just leave you feeling incomplete but I have since learned it is supposed to be part of a trilogy. That may be fine when all three are out but I feel a book should stand on its own, and if a series or trilogy then another book would build on that one adding more dimension but I felt I am forced to read another to get to the ending. I don't like that. If I knew that I would have waited for all three.

There are allot of sections where the author uses what are, to me, nonsensical words but I also look at that as the way they talked at that time and that era. Overall it works to me, even if I am not sure what they specifically mean but I feel I get the gist and it adds to the story.

As for the reader: (Side note, I feel there are two reviews on a site like this, the story and then the reader) I liked the way the reader added different voices to each character. I liked his overall reading voice. I did not like however the way the reader emulated womens voices. I wish there was a woman that did those parts in her way. Overall not bad at all but could be better in that regard.

9 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Lindsay
  • 2009-01-29


Having read the other reviews for this book, I tend to wonder whether we were listening to the same thing. Gigante mispronounces simple words with alarming frequency and attempts a number of accents doing all of them badly. In the case of one character, at times he had a Cockney accent and at other times, Scottish. I will never listen to another book narrated by him. however, the book itself is long-winded and tedious and I am now on the homeward stretch of listening to it and don't even care where it's going any more. I suspect it's going nowhere.

12 of 14 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Aysha
  • Norman, OK, USA
  • 2008-12-02

great story, narrator so-so

Ghosh does a great job with a really pretty ambitious premise. I wasn't disappointed in the ending--i liked that he didn't feel the need to tidy up all the loose ends. I much preferred the narrator of _The Hungry Tide_--this one didn't actually stumble over all the non-English words, but he still sounded pretty American, and that kept jarring my mental images of the characters.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Gadget Wallah
  • 2015-09-04

Hilariously bad pronunciation and bizarre accents

As other reviewers note - this book has a ton of Indic and other non English names and words that the reader pronounces like a very British pukka sahib. Most English folk I know can pronounce Indian words a bit better than this. Moreover the accents range from the indescribable to the unpronounceable! Indian women are rendered as falsetto men with what appears to be a Caribbean accent! Some Indian men appear to have Chinese accents. All very unintentionally funny, but this does take away from the story. The Indian words are so badly pronounced (at one point the Brahmaputra is called the baramputra, singhs become seenghs, ...)

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Bonnie
  • Bellmore, NY, United States
  • 2008-11-26

What started out great,.ended very poorly

This was read beautifully, and the story was fascinating. So much history about the area, and how drugs were used as commerce. But I don't know what happened to the ending. It just left me feeling like there is another book somewhere to explain what happens next. I was so disappointed I felt I just had to write about this. Ending ruined it for me.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful