Read The Glass Palace by Amitav Ghosh Online


Set in Burma during the British invasion of 1885, this masterly novel by Amitav Ghosh tells the story of Rajkumar, a poor boy lifted on the tides of political and social chaos, who goes on to create an empire in the Burmese teak forest. When soldiers force the royal family out of the Glass Palace and into exile, Rajkumar befriends Dolly, a young woman in the court of the BSet in Burma during the British invasion of 1885, this masterly novel by Amitav Ghosh tells the story of Rajkumar, a poor boy lifted on the tides of political and social chaos, who goes on to create an empire in the Burmese teak forest. When soldiers force the royal family out of the Glass Palace and into exile, Rajkumar befriends Dolly, a young woman in the court of the Burmese Queen, whose love will shape his life. He cannot forget her, and years later, as a rich man, he goes in search of her. The struggles that have made Burma, India, and Malaya the places they are today are illuminated in this wonderful novel by the writer Chitra Divakaruni calls “a master storyteller.”...

Title : The Glass Palace
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780375758775
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 512 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Glass Palace Reviews

  • Jeanette
    2018-12-02 13:24

    Yes. This is why I read historical fiction. Amitav Ghosh devoted five years of his life to the travel, research, and writing required to tell this story. It follows the mingled fates of three families and three countries--Burma, India, and Malaya, from 1885 through the mid-1990s. The story begins with the British takeover of the kingdom of Burma as its king and queen are exiled to a remote compound in India. Through the lives of the orphan Rajkumar, his mentor Saya John, the girl Dolly, and her friend Uma, this sweeping tale explores the intricacies of colonialism, wars, divided loyalties, race relations, and the exploitation of subjugated peoples and their natural resources. The complexity of this work is astounding. Ghosh displays a deep understanding of local cultures and sentiments as well as of world history and politics. It's a challenging read with a few dry patches in the early pages, becoming progressively more exciting and touching. I finished the last 135 pages all in one go. I love the way Ghosh allows the family histories to cycle back around as Jaya searches for connections with her relatives and traces their legacy of courage and love, successes and sacrifices. I cried and cried.

  • Ahmad Sharabiani
    2018-12-13 10:16

    The glass palace, Amitav ‎Ghosh‬‬ عنوان: قصر شیشه‌ ای؛ اثر: آمیتاو گاش؛ ب‍رگ‍ردان‌: مه‍دی قراچه‌ داغی، نشر: تهران، البرز، چاپ نخست سال 1381 ؛ در 557 صفحه، شابک: 9644423321؛ موضوع: داس‍تان‍های نویسندگان هندی (انگلیسی) - قرن 20 مداخل دکه ی غذا فروشی، تنها یک نفر بود که صدای غرشی را که از دوردست میآمد، و در امتداد پیچ نقره‌ ای ایراوادی، به دیواره ی غربی دژ مندالی میرسید، میشناخت. اسمش راج کمار بود، پسر بچه ی یازده ساله، هندی که کسی به حسابش نمیآورد...؛ با شنیدن صدای نخستین غرش، دکه‌ نشین‌‌ها سکوت کردند. بعد نوبت به پرسش‌های مضطربانه، و آنگاه پاسخ‌های نجواگونه رسید. حاضران حیرت‌زده نگاه میکردند. صدای زیر و به هیجان آمده راج کمار همه را به سکوت وادار کرد. زبان روان انگلیسی و لهجه ی غلیظ برمه‌ ای داشتا. شربیانی

  • Praj
    2018-11-24 08:59

    During my pre-vegetarian days, I used to find solace in a warm, juicy scrumptious steak n’ cheese sandwich washed down by a chilled Heineken. Especially, if the gooey cheese was a blend of Munster, Monterey jack and yellow cheddar; the bread not too soggy but aptly moisten by the beef gravy. It is pure bliss. On the other hand, a classier version for $150 is layered with buttered lobsters, black truffles and caviar. Now, why would someone mess up such a meticulous appetizing combination? Stop! Do not ruin the sandwich. Sometimes finding equilibrium with the culinary fest becomes essential to restrict the malfunction of the taste buds. What a fucking nincompoop you would say, comparing an internationally acclaimed novel to a mere sandwich. Hey! I am somehow craving for meat now and couldn’t find a better way to evaluate this book. I am not going to air kiss and bestow courteous admiring comments as to how the book merges a fascinating piece of history with a gratifying story. The cynical bitch that I am, I want to know if it was worth my money.Encyclopedia! Encyclopedia! That is the golden word here. C’mon Ghosh, you know better that sometimes too much chronological information in a fiction novel can be irksome and skepticism may prevail over the respective purchase. There were times, many times throughout the narration, I wished to have simply bought a non-fiction Burmese history book and could have used the remaining to purchase some beer. Alcohol did prove to be a crucial company during some parts of my reading. One thing you should be sure of, Ghosh loves history and with his books one can gain knowledge of varied historical eras. For all the history buffs out there, it’s treat fellas!!! Just like his in depth elucidations on the opium wars in Sea of Poppies, Ghosh spans put this plot over a century ranging from the fall of Mandalay, the World wars(I&II), the Japanese invasion of Malay, the Indian independence and finally the modern times with a mention of Aung San Suu Kyi.Phew!!! It is not that bad. The transformation of landscapes and the changes in fortune and agricultural economies turn out to be quite mesmerizing. The exile of King Thibaw and the aftermath of his family life in the western coastal region of India was job well done.As for the creative writing part of it, the lives and families of Rajkumar and Dolly over three generations were loosely scripted and eventually got a bit unexciting. At times there is hurriedness in the author’s writing which can be evidently seen in the abrupt endings of some chapters. It seems like Ghosh, at some point must have been overwhelmed with his subjective research and could not find symmetry between reality and fantasy. Just like the fancy steak sandwich; all those flavors of buttered crustacean, meat, cheese, truffles and maybe salmon roe, it a medley of disaster. It is not worth to separate the ingredients and if eaten in it entirety one cannot taste a damn thing. Lastly, I like to thank the makers of Heineken for not only making the vegetarians a happy bunch of people, but ,also for a superb fermentation process without which there would not be any chilled beer to be pleasured on a blistering day and help my reading. As for Ghosh, darling, it would be an immense delight to meet you in person; as far as the books goes I would delightfully adore them only through the display windows.

  • Erwin
    2018-11-19 09:06

    Wow! I have just finished one of my new favourite books! And I believe I will hit the "become a fan" button on Ghosh's page here on Goodreads after I finish this! (I loved Sea of Poppies and River of Smoke too) This book was a fantastic ride through part of South East Asia's history! A fascinating family drama that never bored. Well-written and a sad but also touching end. Well Done!!

  • Margitte
    2018-12-11 16:18

    Amitav Ghosh tells the story of a family and the tumultuous history of Burma (Myanmar). Burma is a country ravaged by war for more than fifty years, which only became a delicate new democracy in 2015. Beautiful people in The Golden Land, live amidst the most scenic places on earth. It's teak forests, gold, rubber, and other natural resources formed part of the colonial land grabbing in the 1800s, having Britain as their ruler for more than 100 years. Kipling's visit to Rangoon in Burma, inspired his poem "Mandalay" in 1890. This is a beautiful book. An atmospheric, picturesque tale of a family's struggles through decades, probably eighty years, to survive the politics and social revolt in a country ravaged by greed and expansionism. A wealth of characters form the backbone of the saga. Rahkumar and Dolly are the main characters, starting out the journey for themselves and their descendants. Amitav Gosh, not only captured the battle on the streets, in public squares, battlefields, palaces and gardens, he went into the houses-intruding, violating privacy, to bring this tale alive. An excellent historical fiction experience. So well written and so detailed. Mindblowing. The only reason why I don't rate it higher is because it was too long. But by gosh ... it would not have been the same read if much of the scenic background and social dynamics were not added to all the different strains of each character's life. Quote from the book: "...politics has invaded everything, spared nothing . . . religion, art, family . . . it has taken over everything . . . there is no escape from it . . . and yet, what could be more trivial, in the end." A really great read.

  • Frances
    2018-12-02 14:09

    The first person I recommended this book to was an English professor, who said she was immediately "transfixed." Undoubtedly Amitav Ghosh's masterpiece (his other novels do not even compare), The Glass Palace is an epic that takes place over three generations of a multi-ethnic and multi-class families in Southeast Asia. Ghosh sets the novel in the Bengal region, which straddles modern-day borders of India, Bangladesh, Burma, and Malaysia, demonstrating how the porous nature of these cultures makes a significant argument against the arbitrary boundaries drawn during the colonial eras. The Glass Palace is both a critique and celebration of modernity, wrought through dynamic characters you come to know as family, indubitable historical descriptions that you feel Ghosh knows intimately, and myriad images, smells, sounds, and feeling compiled through a kind of snapshot montage. Regardless of your personal history, reading The Glass Palace is like leafing through your own family's photo album.

  • Petra X
    2018-11-20 09:17

    If you like sagas, this was a good one, but in common with a lot of sagas is the large cast of characters. Although I do rate Amitav Ghosh as a writer with great ability to draw characters, this time by the end of the book I couldn't keep straight who was who and what relationship they had to each other. Often the people I was most interested in, just featured in a small bit of the book and after that heard from only in passing.After a long gap of years, I have only recently resumed reading light fiction, and probably I expect too much of it after immersing myself in many of the 'greats' and a lot of non-fiction. I was drawn to this book though after reading Aravind Adiga's White Tiger and remembering how much I used to enjoy stories of the Raj - Paul Scott, E.M. Forster etc - and read Ghosh's latest, Sea of Poppies, which I loved. I didn't enjoy the Glass Palace as much as Sea of Poppies but still... as I say, maybe I expect too much.

  • K
    2018-12-09 13:04

    Most of the historical fiction books I've read have tried to do three things -- evoke a sense of time and place, depict historical events through the eyes of their characters, and last (and often least, unfortunately, even though this is ostensibly the reason to read a novel in the first place), create multifaceted characters who are experiencing their own growth, development, and plot. The best historical fiction books I've read integrated all three of these goals into a smooth and readable narrative -- Gone With the Wind, for instance. Unfortunately, much of the historical fiction I've read has been mediocre and concentrated heavily on the first two goals -- describing the time and place, and following the historical timeline. The third goal, that of creating an interesting plot and believable characters in their own right rather than simply using them as an excuse to give us the history, often falls short. This was the case here as well.If I were really honest, I'd put this on my "couldn't finish" shelf because I actually skimmed about 3/4 of it. But since I did, in fact, push myself all the way to the end, I'll give myself a pass.I started out enjoying this book. Ghosh's writing evoked the scene, and I wanted to read more about the characters and their travails. That ended, though, when things suddenly became choppy and contrived. I want this character to get rich, Ghosh apparently decided, so I'll have him make this deal, have the other characters pay some lip service to how risky it is, and boom! It works out! Now, thought Ghosh, I want these two long-lost people to reunite and end up marrying. So, a quick reunion, a summary rejection by the woman, and then a dramatic scene where she changes her mind just as he's leaving and has to chase him down. Poof! They're married. Many important events happened this way, while other parts of the book were extremely long and draggy -- unnecessarily so, in my opinion. Much of the book seemed like an effort to situate the characters in convenient times and places so as to give us some history and promote an anti-colonialist agenda. Not that I'm a fan of colonialism, but I'm also not a fan of agenda-driven novels.I did enjoy the fact that Ghosh focused on an unfamiliar (to me) setting -- Burma -- and made me more aware of both its own history and its role in world events. And I was interested in the characters and in what would happen to them -- at first. Unfortunately, somewhere after p. 100 the story started to fall flat for me, and then more and more characters and jumpy subplots were introduced as I found myself less and less motivated to follow them.I read Sea of Poppies, a later book by Ghosh, a while back and really enjoyed it. I guess he matured as a writer, which is nice. In this earlier novel, you do see his potential but from what I can see, his later work is much better.

  • Mommalibrarian
    2018-12-08 14:10

    This book is epic in length and covers three generations of Indians in the countries of Malaya and Burma (Myanmar) from 1885 until the end of the twentieth century. This is a very large scope and it is covered by disconnected chapters that are almost standalone essays. A few are strongly written - the torn loyalties of the Indian soldier when faced with continuing to serve a British master as part of the empire or switching to the Japanese side to drive the British out. Some of the essay / chapters seem to build to a point of interest and then abruptly end. The subsequent actions of the characters may never be revealed, may be revealed multiple essays forward or might have been tucked into a prior chapter as 'throw away' detail. I would only recommend this book to someone who was interested in a very high-level understanding of Indians in Burma. I did not understand or empathize with any of the characters and would have preferred more in depth coverage of a shorter period of time. Maybe it is an Eastern "War and Peace" and needs to be read several times.

  • jordan
    2018-12-05 13:04

    What exactly can one say about “The Glass Palace?” Amitav Ghosh, with his lyrical prose, intricate characters, and extraordinary gift for research, never ceases to amaze. How many other writers could offer a work of such sweep -- following an extended family’s triumphs and travails through 115 years of Burmese history – enwrapping the reader in each moment and personality so completely that you find yourself holding your breath?If you consider yourself reasonably well educated and have only thought about Burma in so much as is ruled by a murderous junta with an endless appetite for superstition and poor taste in names for their country, Ghosh has a lot to tell you. As with all of his novels, this is no small part of the pleasure that comes with reading “The Glass Palace,” receiving a fascinating education folded so delicately into a great story that you often fail to realize how much you are learning. Who knew that Burma was considered the most valuable province in the British Empire for much of the 20th century, worth more than all of India? I didn’t. Likewise, I was as ever mesmerized by Ghosh’s treatment of the complex social dynamics of colonial India.Yet more than an education, this novel shines for its perfectly constructed characters and their wonderful, complex relationships. The love stories which thread through the story come as touching, warm, and as often as not, heart rending. At times I found myself almost weeping for their failures, even as I cheered their successes. At times, one feels an almost Tolstoy like intricacy in these characters’ relationships.For those unfamiliar with Ghosh, “The Glass Palace” is a great place to begin a journey with one of the world’s great living novelists. Once you take this one step with him, you really won’t want to stop, and will run to read another of his novels. Yes, he rally is that extraordinarily brilliant.

  • dely
    2018-11-16 10:23

    4,5This is the story about Burma from the British colonisation till the years after WWII and some hints to modern times. But it is also the story about the exile of the last Burmese king and his family and their life in India; it is the story of the British colonisation of Burma but with some hints also to its colonisation in India and Malaysia; it is the story of Rajkumar, an Indian orphan that lives and works in Burma, of his family and several good friends of him and his wife. Reading this book the reader knows also more about the Indian National Army and why some Indian soldiers decided to mutiny from the British Army. The story is set in Burma, India and also Malaysia.There is really a lot in this book though the main focus is on Burma, its history and Rajkumar's family. I liked this book because I didn't know a lot about the colonisation of Burma, and it was also a real pageturner. I was never bored by the story.Despite this I can't rate it with 5* because the story about the Burmese king and his family's exile, and therefore also the story about Rajkumar's and Dolly's youth, was very long and detailed, while the last part of the book (about the second and third generation of Rajkumar's family) was shorter and there were some time leaps. I would have liked this second part, both about the history of Burma and the family members, to be more detailed even if I should have read several additional pages. I would have liked also to know more about the Burmese princesses and what happened to them once married.It is a very engrossing and interesting book and I like Ghosh's writing style. It is a pity that the first part was very detailed and the second part was too concise.

  • Elaine
    2018-12-15 08:00

    Time to admit that this is not getting finished. Despite being in Mandalay when I started it, I found that this book, which is rather too abrupt in jumping from decade to decade and generation to generation, also dragged and failed to engage. I feel like Ghosh is a writer with flashes of a brilliance I could love who too often gets tangled up in his need to instruct, to fill in the deplorable gaps in our understanding of colonialism and Southeast Asia. I feel his pain at the reader's ignorance, my ignorance, But character development too often gets squeezed out in his books, and I'd rather read good history or good fiction than something which gets in its own way too much to be either.

  • Laura
    2018-12-01 10:03

    Page 107:May I remind Your Highness that while Alexander the GReat spent no more than a few months in the steppes of Central Asia, the satrapies he founded persisted for centuries afterward) Britain's Empire is, by contrast, already more than a century old, and you may be certain, Your Highness, that its influence will persist for centuries more to come.Page 292There were quotations from Mahatma Gandhi and a passage that said: "Why should India, in the name of freedom, come to the defence of this Satanic Empire which is itself the greatest menace to liberty that the world has ever known?"Page 518"Did we ever have a hope?"..."We rebelled against an Empire that has shaped everything in our lives; coloured everything in the world as we know it. It is a huge, indelible stain which has tainted all of us. We cannot destroy it without destroying ourselves...."What a magnificent book, the story of three generations that starts in Mandalay....

  • Renata
    2018-11-22 08:57

    This has become one of my top favorite works of historical fiction. Love the writing and everything else about the telling of the broad history of Burma (today's Myanmar ) which he masterfully connects to colonialism. I will reread at some point.

  • Girish
    2018-12-11 14:25

    Ghosh's Glass Palace is an achievement - no doubt! This is a Historical fiction pivoted around milestones with a few real characters spanning countries and 3 generations.The first part of the King of Burma's exile and the subsequent life in India could easily be mistaken for work of fiction. Except they were real and the author has taken pains to weave them as the backdrop for the first generation of the Rajkumar family tree. The next generation story unfolds like a mega serial up till the war with narration restricted to developments. At least, till the 2nd world war. The beauty of prose comes out in those parts that explore the dichotomy of the Indian soldier in the Empire's army. Definitely the strongest points of the book are these pages of the country in transition. The book also underplays the traditional 'key moments' in a book. Characters marry, kill or die over one sentence on a page. Extremely well researched and no wonder it took 6 years of research for this book. Masterpiece for the author.Complains - Too many characters of equal importance, some subplots that stand out as loose threads and mega serial type handling of the 2nd generation.

  • Ayushi
    2018-11-26 16:19

    I love Amitav Ghosh, he is my favourite novelist currently. The Glass Place is one of my favourite books of his. It is a sweeping epic that starts from the eviction of the Royal family in Burma where a urchin witnesses the royalty being indignantly thrown out and resolutely falls in love with one of the helpers who comes to India with the king and the Queen and the 3 princessses.The books explores their life there as normal people there and the hardships they go through . It shifts to the Plantations in Burma, the rubber plantations in malaysia, activities of the Ghadar party in America. What I love about the book is how Ghosh weaves in so many characters and so many settings (plantations, independence struggle right upto a Burma in exile).It is one of the best books to read for people who like to learn about cultures, economies, politics, society and relationships all inextricably woven.

  • Jesse Field
    2018-11-25 11:25

    “But you could come to Singapore with us first; you could probably get a ship there. It might even be easier.’Dinu paused to think. ‘You may be right. Yes . . . I’ll come.’She reached for his hands. ‘I don’t think I could bear to go without you. Especially now.’‘Why now?’She dug into his chest with her forehead. ‘Because I think I’m in love with you, Dinu—or something like that at any rate. I didn’t know it before, but I know it now.’He pulled her closer. He did not care what had happened between her and Arjun; nothing mattered but this—that she loved him and he loved her. Nothing else was of any account, not the planes, not the bombs, nothing but this. This was what happiness was—he’d never known it before; this melting away, this exaltation, your guts spilling into your head, filling your eyes—your mind transformed into your body, your body instinct with the joy in your mind; this sensation of reality having met its end.”At least when these kind of lines come up in cheesy films starring Humphrey Bogart, they are pegged onto a tight story that's going to take us on a ride for 90 minutes or so. This 500-page clunker of a book is not so much a novel as a morass of notes, detailing all of the anecdotes the author encountered in his research on this little corner of southeast Asia, and gussied up lightly with romances that are oddly both turgid and blandly calm at at the same time. I'd never have finished if I hadn't been on an eight-hour train ride with little else to do. As other readers comment, there is major historical action that propels us forward in the beginning and the end of the book. In some sense, it's a book about modernity, which really doesn't seem to catch on as well in southeast Asia. All in all, I expected to be more interested than I was.

  • Thebooktrail
    2018-11-27 13:24

    Like a tapestry of colours and evocative settings, the sights and sounds of Burma bring the history of the country and its people to life. From the rubber estates in Malaya, Burma, the colonies in India and the British Invasion of Burma -from 1870 to WW2 makes for an epic read and a historical lesson of a remarkable time period.Heavily detailed and evocative, this is a read which teaches you a lot about the time and place of the countries involved. the danger and the tensions of all involved is remarkable to read and it paints a picture of a very turbulent and dramatic time in history.Although Rajkumar’s story, this is also the story of Burma, Malaya, and India over the 150 years from the British raj to the present day. The settings are as much a character than any one else and we see how the history of a country and its past shapes far more than the present.In the final days before the British arrive, we are given an honoured and sneak insight into how the Burmese saw this event and the spilt between rich and poor is astounding. The inclusion of Rajkumar and his family along with that of the Royal family is cleverly done as we see events and the chaos through their eyes giving it a personal and deeply evocative feel.What stood out for us, and there was a lot believe us - were the scenes depicting the Japanese invasion of Malaya during WW2. The fear, danger and sheer panic was imbued in every word and even between them. Feel as if you have taken part in history by reading this book.

  • Roger Brunyate
    2018-12-14 08:04

    A Confluence of History and RomanceWith its 470 close-printed pages and 111-year time-span, Amitav Ghosh's The Glass Palace is a novel of immense scope. Unlike most long novels or multi-generational family epics, this one held me interested throughout, largely because whenever Ghosh allowed the tension to drop as a novelist, he picked it up as an historian. Indeed, for much of the book, I felt I was reading a non-fiction history of Burma, India, and Malaya, told through the lives of characters who are largely fictional. Beginning and ending in Burma, from the expulsion of King Thebaw by the British in 1885 to a speech by the imprisoned democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi outside her house in 1996, the novel covers two world wars, several rebellions, and numerous flavors of oppression, brief independence, and interracial strife. It also chronicles both the usual changes in the outside world, such as the impact of motor-cars, airplanes, and photography, and factors specific to that particular region, such as the successive importance of three money-making trees: teak, rubber, and the oil palm. Reading it, I learned a great deal.There may be history in the making, but the novel opens in the spirit of high romance. Rajkumar, a Bengali boy in his early teens, has been temporarily stranded in Mandalay when the British attack. Taking advantage of the confusion to enter the palace he sees a Shan girl named Dolly, who is one of the ladies in waiting to the young Princesses. Later, his heart smitten, he finds the opportunity to do her a favor. But Dolly accompanies the Royal Family into exile in India, and by the time they meet again, Rajkumar has become rich from the teak business and the Princesses have grown up. Other characters become important, among them Saya John, Rajkumar's Chinese-born mentor in Burma, and Uma, the wife of the Collector in the small town where the deposed King has been exiled. Other love affairs ensue, and soon we have a second generation and even a third. Potential readers might be well-advised to compile a family tree as they go; it gets complicated.The historian tells; the novelist shows. One of the things I found a little disconcerting about the book is that I could never predict which the author would do when. He would pass from an intimate scene described in great detail, only to leap ahead by a decade or more. Or he would suddenly put in a page or two of background information like an extended footnote. But it was always interesting, and I soon grew used to it.I have found before in similar sagas that the members of the second generation are often not as interesting as the first—plus there are more of them. That is much less true here, partly because most of the younger characters are interesting in their own right, partly because the action moves into truly stirring times, and partly because it is here that Ghosh most clearly comes to grips with the major themes of his book. One example must suffice. Uma's nephew Arjun becomes one of the first Indians to pass through military academy and become an officer in the Indian Army. The British Indian Army, that is, which had hitherto worked with a strict division between white officers and Indian other ranks. Arjun is a conscientious and loyal soldier, but inevitably the question arises: to whom is his loyalty due? To the British who have subjugated his country, or to his own people, fractured though they are by ethnicity, caste, and religion?All this comes to a head when war breaks out and Arjun's regiment is sent to Malaya to defend against possible attack by the Japanese. We are now in the territory handled so brilliantly by J. G. Farrell in The Singapore Grip. Except that this is not told from a European point of view but an Indian one, colonial troops defending a country where they are not even allowed to use the swimming pools. The complex shifting of loyalties under battlefield conditions was new to me and rather confusing, yet the political and moral issues were clear as day. But Ghosh's treatment is far from a ranting polemic. Even though my father was born in India and I am thus the grandson of the oppressors, I found this whole book to be one of the fairest anti-colonial novels I have ever read. Which says a lot.

  • Manu
    2018-11-19 10:27

    Where do I begin? Let's start with stating the simple - I loved this book. I haven't read such a poignantly moving book in quite a while!With that out of the way, the story actually begins in Mandalay (Burma) in 1885, during the last days of the Konbaung Dynasty. The British forcibly depose the Burmese King Thebaw, his queen Supayalat and their daughters from “The Glass Palace,” so named for the large central hall which had crystal walls and mirrored ceilings. As looters raid the palace, Rajkumar, an Indian boy of 11, catches a glimpse of Dolly, one of the queen's maids and "by far the most beautiful creature he had ever beheld, of a loveliness beyond imagining."The British exile the Burmese royals to India - first Madras and then Ratnagiri. From then on, we follow their separate narratives until they intertwine again when Rajkumar, after creating a business empire of sorts, traces the only love he has known. Ratnagiri shows us the various shades of King Thebaw and the love his adopted 'subjects' bestow on him over time, as well as his queen, whose relationship with the local populace, her family and servants, and her own traditions is far from linear. It also introduces us to the 'gaolers', as the queen refers to them - the District Collector and his wife, Uma. Uma then becomes another key character, and her nephew and nieces then connect with the progeny of Rajkumar/Dolly to move the narrative forward. But enough of the story! It's difficult to clearly say whose story this is, it belongs to each superbly etched character, and through these personal narratives, the author weaves in the larger socio-political and historical changes happening in Burma, India and Malaya. The first and second world wars as well as civil unrest in all these countries also show how the greater forces of history radically alter the human lives that appear in its path. There are so many themes in the book! On the political front, there is monarchy and imperialism and the INA and its legacy. That brings with it morality and the concept of right/wrong and good/bad and how it changes even within people. In this context, Arjun would have to be my favourite character and many a lump-in-the-throat moments are courtesy him. Alison and Uma get us thinking of feminism and through Arjun and Dinu, we also get perspectives about man and his concepts of freedom. The canvass is huge in terms of geography and time (over a hundred years) and this allows the author to portray the various shades of human struggles and the common human condition very well. Even minor characters like the Collector, Kishan Singh, Saya John offer us plenty of food for thought, and that's another indication of how richly layered this book is. The five years of research clearly shows in the detailing of people, places, events, conditions. Except for the Burmese royals and Aung San Suu Kyi (and her father) every character is said to be fictional. Yet they seem real, and in that, perhaps, lies the success of this wonderful book! P.S. In a very happy coincidence, I was reading this book while on a vacation to Malaysia. The mention of Georgetown, Butterworth, Sungai Petani, places I was at/near, began as the flight took off on my return journey! In some ways, it added to the melancholy.

  • Mal Warwick
    2018-11-27 16:19

    The brilliant Indian author Amitav Ghosh is one of India's greatest gifts to readers the world over. His deeply affecting historical novels relate the history of South Asia in fascinating detail, reflecting years of intensive research, both on-site and archival. Anchored securely in time and place, Ghosh's characters virtually leap off the page. They're hard to forget.The Glass Palace is a case in point. The novel sprawls across more than a century of Burma's history, from the British invasion of northern Burma in 1885 until 1999. The story opens in the Mandalay neighborhood surrounding the residence and seat of government of Burma's last king, Thebaw Min. In the palatial surroundings of his palace, Thebaw awaits the arrival of British troops who have moved up from the south to incorporate the kingdom as a whole in their empire. With little ceremony, he, his ruthless queen, and their daughters are hustled down the Irawaddy to Rangoon. Then they are bundled onto a ship and sent to a small town on India's west coast. There, Thebaw lived out his days in exile.The central characters are Rajkumar Raha and Dolly, a handmaid to the Second Princess. She is ten years old as the novel opens. Dolly is "a timid, undemonstrative child with enormous eyes and a dancer's pliable body and supple limbs." Rajkumar, who is just one year older, is a poverty-stricken orphan stranded in Mandalay by the captain of the ship he had crewed. When the two are briefly thrown together in the chaos surrounding the British invasion, Rajkumar instantly falls in love with Dolly. He remains smitten for many years until they meet again near the residence of the exiled king in India.Though the focus in The Glass Palace is the history of Burma, the conflict at the core of the tale is the three-way tension between the Burmese, the British, and the Indian businessmen such as Rajkumar became as an adult. It's essential to the story to note that two-thirds of the troops in the British invasion force were Indian as well, a great many of them Sikhs from the Punjab. The story leaps from 1885 to 1905 to 1914 to 1941 to the 1960s, 70s, 80s, and 90s, through four generations of the descendants of Rajkumar, Dolly, and their close friends. The key chapters devoted to the Second World War in Burma and Malaya are especially affecting. If, like me, you had no prior knowledge of Burma's history, you're sure to get a vivid picture of the events that most deeply shaped its evolution before the 21st century.In addition to the Burmese King and Queen, there are several other historical figures that enter into this story: Mahatma Gandhi; Subhas Chandra Bose, the right-wing extremist who led the Indian National Army against the British in the Second World War; General Aung San, Burma's independence leader, who was assassinated before taking office as president; and Aung San's daughter, Aung San Suu Kyi, who now serves as the country's preeminent elected leader.

  • Chana
    2018-12-03 11:20

    An exhausting read, it is dense with history. If a story can be very intense and boring at the same time, then this book is it. I think this is because the story is secondary to the history. Historical fiction is often a story written in an historical context. This is history written through the vehicle of a fictional story. Everything in this story is created to tell the history of Burma (Myanmar). I felt emotionally connected to the story because the author is, his love for the country and the people comes through strongly. He says, in his Author's Notes:The seed of this book was brought to India long before my own lifetime by my father and my uncle, the late Jagat Chandra Datta of Rangood and Moulmein - 'The Prince' as he was known to his relatives. But neither my father nor my uncle would have recognized the crop that I have harvested. By the time I started work on this book, the memories they had handed on to me had lost their outlines, surviving often only as patterns of words, moods, textures. In attempting to write about places and times that I knew only at second- and third-hand, I found myself forced to create a parallel, wholly fictional world. The Glass Palace is thus unqualifiedly a novel and I can state without reservation that except for King Thebaw, Queen Supayalat and their daughters, none of its principal characters bear any resemblance to real people, living or deceased. Perhaps it was the very elusiveness of what I was trying to remember that engendered in me a near-obsessive urge to render the backgrounds of my characters' lives as closely as I could. In the five years it took me to write The Glass Palace I read hundreds of books, memoirs, travelogues, gazetteers, articles and notebooks, published and unpublished; I traveled thousands of miles, visiting and re-visiting, so far as possible, all the settings and locations that figure in this novel...Well first of all, that is one elegant Author's note. You can see he writes beautifully. But you can also see, even this is dense, how much more so the book. The story begins in 1885 with the deposing of the King and Queen of Burma, told through the story of Rajkumar who is 11 years old when this occurs. We follow Rajkumar and his family through the 1990's. Politics, war, philosophy, and history, history, history. A great place, in my opinion, to start to learn the history of Burma, India, and Malaya.

  • Trelawn
    2018-12-11 07:59

    This was a truly epic read. It charts the lives of three generations of a Burmese-Indian family. It begins in Mandalay with the invasion of the British and the exile of the Burmese royal family to Ratnagiri. Their prolonged exile provides the backdrop for the forging of many personal relationships that continue throughout the book. World wars one and two feature in so much as we see the participation of the British-Indian army in the fighting and also how the demand for teak and rubber make some local entrepreneurs wealthy. The novel moves continually between India, Burma and Malaya and follows India and Burma's struggles for independence and ends with Aung San Suu Kyi addressing her supporters from her home/prison in 1996. This was an extremely well written book which came about after years of incredible research by the author. I won't pretend that I have come away with a deep understanding of the region or it's history but I certainly appreciate the complexity and brutality of the events that shaped the countries they are today and how difficult it must be living in the shadow of the colonial past.

  • Appu Shaji
    2018-11-17 14:20

    The Glass Palace is indeed history masqueraded as finely crafted fiction, and politics discussed is ever relevant. At its core, the Glass Palace is the story of ordinary people's life being taken over by politics and drowning them into insignificance.What I found mostly remarkable is how the build-up of each character is paced, with often illustrious and heavy detailing during the first and middle part of their stories, however their exit from the book is mostly tapered, and seems sometimes even abrupt. I personally found this to be impressive and amusing, especially it brings out questionslike "what if such-and-such event never had happened?", and then causally and logically linking it to "why did it happen?".I thoroughly enjoyed the style of the author. The prose is ornamented, but always concise and terse. At certain instances, author take short detours and gives us vivid and beautiful description of the various environmental details like natural surroundings in which story is being progressed, the local customs and practises, the crafts practised by various characters currently in spotlight etc, and end effect is a lovely ambiance and aura being created across the story.

  • Debbie
    2018-12-08 14:09

    Wondeful epic story of a family in the 1800s to 1990s. Also of Burma and India in a troubles time in history.I actually learned stuff!The author manages to tell a sweeping tale with epic historical themes and yet also personsl and full of compassion for the individual struggles of the people. I really love his descriptions of charactors. I could truely see the in my mind yet he only usea FEW PERFECT PHRASES. I will read more by the author. Reading him is a wonderful satisfying experitnce.

  • Jan Colle
    2018-11-26 09:26

    Everything I love. Beautifully written. Well researched. Wonderful story. And you feel transported into a different time and place in a way which few can achieve.

  • Jeanette
    2018-11-16 11:17

    There is a hidden pit I could fall into when writing this reaction. There is dire chance I could go long and detailed. Yes, I could make this one off-putting for the 3 star conclusion. Myself doing a partial synopsis? Or even worse- trying to parse ALL the good points from the multitudes of poorer? Within the breadth of the topics of subject matters and depth of characters here in this book! That would be far longer print copy than I would want to approach. I'm being truthful.So here goes, and I'll try to cut to the chase more quickly now.Enjoyment in reading was absolutely a 4. Politico explanations and ideology viewed through bias and murky lens colonist colonial theory, a 2. But the expressive texture and lushness in style is enchanting and nearly a 5. While the length and intersect to context and continuity ALSO (beauty of place and description the exception) became worse and worse as the book proceeded. That particular aspect started out well- a 4. But then by just past the first half went all the way down to a 2 star, at times a 1. NOW where is this lady residing? Mandalay, Morningside, Rangoon, Malaya, India? And who is the Bengali chap? Well- let's give this a 3 star, I guess, since at least they gave you 5 pages of maps before you started. A bloodline chart with ethic composition or familial bloodline for most of the dozens of characters would have helped too. By page 400 I could not get which was the Burmese grandparent and who the Indian. And do NOT forget that this is only if you have gotten all the Burmese and Indian names for the same people completely straight, as well. (They of mixed parentage /or duo place bestow two separate/different names for the same baby.) If they aren't being called 2nd Princess, or Elder Twin on this page, that is. In other words, this author, does not suffer fools. His assumption is that you can keep that context of these families and generations in 3 countries within consistently moving locations for the same groups- straight. Got that? I doubt it. I do suffer fools. LOL! Loved the under characters depth in parts, for instance. Mo Chan and some of the better Burmese context descriptions of the first half especially were excellent. So I end up with a 3 star over all. I enjoyed it more than that, but wanted to cut through piles of redundancy within the WWII era spin offs of the story for that joy to approach a sustained 4. Especially during the Indian army sensibilities chapters. All parsed to miniscule factions/ opinions within the British held forces. Coupled with all those opposing traditions and formalities. (Even purposed to all details of their eating in each and every ethnic factions' food choices within different canteen halls.) But there we do sit within the crux of the question for the entire progressions for change, don't we? But somehow this part of the book didn't meld with the rest. And it broke the family saga's continuity of deep characterization, IMHO. My favorite parts were enmeshed within the teak and rubber forests operations' sections and the last Queen of Burma's household in exile. Those entrepreneurs and that lady this author just nailed. And he didn't even go into all the stories / background tales of all the dozens of people she tortured and/or exterminated to get her husband the "King" job, either. So once again, he is only telling the British "baddie" side of the story.I wanted to like this entire book for its truth in duplicity, primarily those conflicting loyalties during these crux years of tribal, country, class identity finding. But on the other hand, I thought some of the women's core personalities and onus of purpose and/or desire just absolutely mawkish and awfully "off". I could not STAND Dolly and a few of the other characters that the author seemed to think were essential heroes or "holy" purposed icons. Regardless, it was well worth the time that this took me. It was twice as long to read as other books of this exact length. Parts of it were absolutely magical. Can you imagine that green jungle or all those rubber trees in exact profile of rows on the hills! Or finding those ruins on a hike.But Ghosh stood back to get the "whole picture" here and he did get some parts clearly. But for the most part, he chopped off some heads and left some portions cut into puzzle pieces with his camera. I especially found the 3 or 5 page dip into romance of trite quality and mostly and almost entirely unrealistic.

  • CadyCan
    2018-12-05 09:00

    Borrowed from Jane, Dummer Book Club read.This book took ages to read (approx 2months), largely due to move etc. but also because there was nothing in it that grabbed me & compelled me to read on. It's an easy book to put down & I can understand why some people in Dummer book club gave up on it. The names are hard to follow for two reasons: 1. they're foreign to me 2. There are many many characters.Thoughts on book changed as I read it. Started off thinking it's going to be a gripping historical novel that will tell me much of places on my travel list. Then began to think it was just a looooong drawn out, elaborate love story telling the tale of various couples starting with the main couple Rajkumar & Dolly then followed by the love stories of their children etc. I do normally enjoy books that tell of historical events in a story because I usually learn something & this was true here too except I am told by those who know more of this region's history that much of it is vastly inaccurate, although descriptions of places apparently do the reality justice. Of course this too could just be a result of the historical slant taught in England. As such I've chosen to learn, instead, the general tale told by the historical back drop, especially as in reading the 'Author's notes' at the end, it is made clear the story was put together from many tales heard by the author from people who lived through some of the atrocities. Everyone has a story to tell and I love to hear from people about their experiences, admittedly, preferably first hand over a cuppa. In a way this book was that, it just needed to be written in a way that kept one going, otherwise I appreciate the highs, lows, trials, tribulations & experiences these people's endured and respect their versions of remembered events, as indeed such tumult can only ever be intensely subjective. The author tries to give multiple view points and commentaries on the socio-political state of places in the book but in his attempt to show all sides fails to impart any sense of conviction to the reader. I didn't feel outraged or goaded into a sense of action, justice or injustice by the end of it. I just felt sad. This book should have been written as three separate books. The first covering Rajkumar & Dolly's story, but leaving it on a cliff hangar, the second telling the middle part of the book (beginnings of the war story), again leaving on a cliff hangar and the third tying up all the loose ends. Amitox Gosh's main talent is imagery and 2/3rds through the book it appears he realised that the book was dragging on a big and so less and less imagery and detail was put in, skimming over things that would have carried more emotional weight had they been afforded the same level of detail as the first half had. Perhaps its more fair to say the book was poorly edited as I'd have thought its the editor who will guide the author on things such as detail, pace, splitting the book, etc.

  • Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
    2018-12-04 07:57

    What the blurb led me to expect: A book about Burma in the late 19th century, starring a boy/young man named Rajkumar.What the book actually is: An epic family saga beginning in 1885 and ending in 1996, set in Burma/Myanmar, India, and Malaysia, starring a whole bunch of people.Fortunately, I like epic family sagas starring a whole bunch of people. I was pleased to find that, far from just being Rajkumar’s love interest as the blurb would indicate, Dolly is a protagonist in her own right (arguably more central than Rajkumar). And Ghosh manages to make subsequent generations of characters equally interesting.However, this isn’t without a caveat--111 years is a long time to cover in a single volume, and so a lot of time is skipped over. Less than 100 pages into the book, Rajkumar and Dolly are already in their 30s, and that’s only the first of several significant time-skips. Beyond that, I’ll confess to some disappointment with the periods Ghosh chooses to focus on. One-third of this book is devoted to World War II, which so. many. books. have been written about already. The years of post-independence turmoil in Burma, which I have never read about, are dismissed in barely a page. Granted, the book covers facets of WWII that I was unfamiliar with (in particular, the dilemmas faced by the Indian soldiers), and the war was crucial to the end of British colonization in Asia, and these sections are well-written.... but still.At any rate, now that I’m done quibbling with authorial decisions, on to the good stuff. Because pretty much everything in this book is good stuff. The characters are interesting, diverse and believeable. The plot entertains--yes, there’s a lot of history in it, but for those who want to learn from historical fiction, it’s an excellent balance. The cultural and historical detail are fascinating--from the late-19th-century teak camps to the early-20th-century rubber plantations to the tense streets of 1990’s Yangon. The descriptions are very visual and there’s a real sense of place. The scope of this book is amazing, and for all that, we get to know a lot of places very well. The one place the book goes off the rails a bit is with the romances, which tend toward the melodramatic without giving a clear picture of why the characters are so drawn to each other--but there’s enough (well-done) tragedy that the book avoids becoming saccharine. And thus far I haven’t mentioned the themes, but the discussions of the effects of colonialism, in particular, are certainly worth a read.So, the verdict: The Glass Palace is a very good book. But it should have been a trilogy.

  • Palmyrah
    2018-11-21 15:02

    Amitav Ghosh has been a favourite of mine ever since I picked up The Calcutta Chromosome in a Singapore bookshop many years ago. This is the first book of his that has disappointed me.It begins well, with the story of two unrelated orphans who survive the British invasion of Burma and the deposition of King Thebaw. One is a servant-girl at the royal court; the other is a Bengali street boy. Many years later, in India, they marry. The first part of the story, which tells of their adventures and exploits up to the time of their marriage, is excellent – the best portion of the book. But the story carries on, following the lives of their descendants through two further generations, growing tangled, hard to follow and often dull. The historical backdrop – the Japanese invasion of Malaya and Burma, the Indian independence movement, the horrors of modern Myanmar – is full of potential that the author never seems to fulfil. After a while even he seems to get bored; that's when he starts killing off characters to move the plot along. There are several parallel stories being told by this time and Ghosh still comes up with a corker of a scene now and then, but one feels oneself growing less and less interested in the characters and their stories as the book plods along, ever more somnolently. When it ends at last, it does so with a revelation that surprises no-one. The author then subjects us to an afterword that reveals what was obvious to a perceptive reader from very early on; that The Glass Palace is a fictionalization of events that actually happened to the author's forebears. This makes the revelation one has just read acutely embarrassing in retrospect, and one blushes in vicarious shame.A noble failure, perhaps, but a failure all the same.