Ghosh is clearly enamoured enough with his first book's motley crew of characters to write them through another novel. This time, though, he splits his characters up geographically so the story is a bit more plausible (there's simply no way you could get that many different types of people together on a single ship headed to Mauritius in his first novel. I'm all for diversity, but come on, let's be slightly historically realistic!). The majority of River of Smoke is set in Canton's Fanqui-town, or foreign enclave, just before the outbreak of the Opium Wars between the British and Chinese.
|Canton During The Opium Wars|
One small flower brought about stunning European profits and the full-scale colonization and subjugation of several Asian countries. There is some discussion that the soma plant mentioned in the Rig Veda is actually opium. And I suppose without opium we'd never have the poetry of Keats or Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Even Louisa May Alcott was an opium addict. Opium is also a part of our local color; the drug was first introduced to the United States through San Francisco's Chinatown. Despite its history and prevalence, however, I do wonder if Emily Blunt understands exactly what's behind the name of the product she's currently hawking...