Saturday, January 7, 2012

River of Snore

I was really excited for this book.  Super-excited.  Pre-order it in hard-cover and pay whatever Barnes & Noble was asking, no questions asked-excited.  For a lot of people, that means nothing, but I like used books and, at the very least, would wait for the paperback version, but that's how excited I was.  Okay, technically I paid for it with a gift card that B&N gave me for participating in a survey while on the clock, but still, that gift card is valuable to a thrifty bibliophile like myself.

Okay, less about my frugality and more about the book.  I haven't finished it.  In fact, I'm not even halfway through.  I'm not officially giving up on it, per say, but I am starting another book and there are so many characters in River of Smoke that I know I will probably forget half of them if it's not the main thing I'm reading, but I'm not sure that I care.

So why was I so excited, you ask.  Why was this such a let-down?  Well, it all started with Sea of Poppies, the first book in a proposed trilogy by Amitav Ghosh and the first book I ever reviewed on this blog (fun fact!).  Sea of Poppies was fantastic.  It was a story, the beginning of an epic really, set in India and aboard a ship, the Ibis, just prior to the Opium Wars.  Prior to reading Sea of Poppies, to which I was attracted mostly because of its cover and the fact that it was set in India, I had had little knowledge of the opium trade, but the book just drew me in.  It was a great story, yes, but also good for political thought and considerations of capitalism and how its discussion hasn't really changed.  And there were characters and they came together and it was wonderful.

And then there's River of Smoke.  In which Mr. Ghosh has a lot of knowledge and tells it to you.  I have read two hundred pages and I have yet to find a real character or the inkling of a story.  Any story.  Mostly, it's just exposition and a lot of fun historical tidbits that Ghosh feeds to you through contrived dialogue and the narrator's tangents (no, I didn't even care about the history of chai - I know).  It feels a lot like he is saying "look at all the things I know!" and completely forgetting that he's supposed to be writing a novel.  Sea of Poppies got off to a slow start but two hundred pages?!  Out of five hundred?  And no story in sight?  Nope.  No thank you.  I'll try to keep up with it, read a few pages a day, but I don't know what will happen.  My hopes are not high.

Also, stay tuned for a comparative close-readings of River of Smoke and Harry Potter.  Because I used to be an English major and why not?!


  1. Oh, I hate disappointments like this. I own Sea of Poppies, so I'll read that but maybe not buy this one.

    Hope it picks up for you before the end...

  2. That's depressing that this book isn't working out. And if he can't even get you interesting in the history of chai, well it seems like this might be a lost cause. I commend you for sticking with it (hopefully it will get better) because I probably would have just put it back on the shelf by now.

  3. Oh, no! I even gave up on Sea of Poppies. Sorry that this one didn't live up to the expectations. I do admire Ghosh as a writer genreally, though.