The Glass Palace – Amitav Ghosh

The Glass Palace

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.

3/5***

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