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The Glass Palace
|by Subhajit Ghosh|
Magnificent. There’s no other word for it. It’s a well-researched book and thoroughly enjoying. Spanning a period of about sixty years, it’s a tale about three generations of a family and similar in some respects to Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude.
Human emotions make the novel engaging. Love, betrayal, treachery, racism, friendship & sacrifice pervade the unfolding of events. Romance mingles with vivid description of a war as the principal characters move from Rangoon and Mandalay in Burma to Malaya, and from Ratnagiri, Calcutta and Madras in India to the United States.
It’s a story about an Indian man, RajKumar Raha who lands up in Burma in a state of penury owing to a shipwreck. From his humble beginning as a sailor boy, he rises to become an extremely affluent influential timber trader in Burma. This 550 page fictional work with Burmese history woven into the narrative chronciles his family’s experiences, their ups and downs, the hatred that exist in Burma for Indo-Burmese family (Rajkumar marries a Burmese lady Dolly ) providing us in between with a wealth of information about Burma, the timber trade, killer diseases like antharax which attack and kill elephants etcetera without becoming dry and boring.
Reading through the novel one is convinced about the tremendous research the writer must have done for this work while dealing with a subject that won’t come naturally to any writer. A Bengali who grew up in various places, Amitav Ghosh writes about Burmese life with an authority and a flair that a good Burmese writer would have been proud of. His description is awesome and he’s as precise about military life as he is when he is handling erotic sequences or the make of a foreign car. Amitav’s prose is captivating. Below are just two beautiful extracts from the book.
The second extract.
Flashback techniques has been used in several places. Scenes from Burmese rebellion are a recurring motif. These images are terribly disturbing and continues to haunt and those who’ve seen John Boorman’s hard-hitting film Beyond Rangoon on the atrocities by Burmese military Govt. on its citizens will be convinced that this resourceful land, called the Golden Land, rich in precious stones, rubber among other items is/was truly in the grip of anarchy for a long time. In the last pages, havoc caused by a Japanese invasion in Burma and its effect on the Army officers and the people have been penned quite forcefully. It’s undoubtedly one of the best books I have read in recent times.
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