Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Five best novels set in the British-colonial East

Janice Y. K. Lee was born and raised in Hong Kong and graduated from Harvard College. A former features editor at Elle and Mirabella magazines, she currently lives in Hong Kong.

Her new novel The Piano Teacher, is now available in paperback.

For the Wall Street Journal, she named a five best list of novels set in the British-colonial East. One title on the list:
Sea of Poppies
by Amitay Ghosh
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2008

Amitay Ghosh uses a vast and vibrant canvas for "Sea of Poppies," the first in a trilogy that is still being written. Set in the years before the Opium Wars in the mid-19th century, when Britain was making a fortune from poppy crops in India, the story opens in the port city of Calcutta and brings together characters that include a low-caste giant who runs away with a widow; a mulatto sailor with "skin the color of old ivory"; and Paulette, a French orphan. These people will meet as they gradually make their way to the Ibis, a triple-masted schooner that is being prepped to take indentured workers to Mauritius, off the African coast. Ghosh revels in the joy of language—"as chuckmuck a rascal as ever you'll see: eyes as bright as muggerbees, smile like a xeraphim"—but he is also a splendid storyteller. In the last pages, the Ibis is being tossed by a mighty storm, the characters growing desperate. I was desperate, too, for the next book.
Read about the other books on Lee's list.

Janice Y. K. Lee's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Piano Teacher.

--Marshal Zeringue