Several Christmas's ago, I took a copy of Cutting for Stone home with me on Christmas Eve. My favourite memory of that holiday, is being curled up on my rocking chair with a cup of tea voraciously reading the novel. Since then, I have been on the lookout every Fall for my "Christmas Day Book" to continue the tradition.
I heard all the buzz about Sea of Poppies when it first arrived on the scene, but never gave it more than a glance. That is until the sequel, A River of Smoke, came into the store. I took one look at the beautiful blue cover and knew that I wanted to read this book on Boxing Day. Which naturally means, I need to read Sea of Poppies now!
The novel (which is actually part of a trilogy) features a glorious cast of characters that come together on a magical boat, the Ibis, just before the Opium Wars took place in China. The ship's destination across the Indian Ocean, is to fight in China's vicious nineteenth-century Opium Wars.
Some of my favourite characters include: Deeti, a widow, along with her lover, who is escaping her brother-in-law's rage. Paulette is the orphaned daughter of a French biologist who can't find a way to fit in with the British colonists, Jodu is the Indian playmate that she grew up with. Zachary is a freed mulatto American slave, now the second Captain after everyone died on the voyage to India. The diverse cast of Indians and Westerners each have an enchanting story to tell. Once they board the ship, they let go of their family ties and caste stereotypes and begin to see themselves as ship-brothers.
What I am enjoying most about this enchanting book is the different stories of the characters before they arrive on the boat, the various slang that they use, and the lush descriptions of the poppy fields by the Ganges river, the sea that has a life of it's own, and the backstreets of Calcutta and Canton.