Saturday, September 25, 2010

THE GLASS PALACE by Amitav Ghosh

Rajkumar is only a boy, helping out on a market stall in thedusty square outside the royal palace in Mandalay, when the British force theBurmese King, Queen and court into exile. Thus begins The Glass Palace, anovel that not only grasps the reach and fall of empires across the twentiethcentury, but also maps with unerring skill the rival geography of the humanheart. In the upheaval that follows the British in Mandalay and the shatteringof the kingdom of the Glass Palace, Rajkumar, a stateless orphan in a tatteredlungi, is lifted on the tides pf chaos deep into the teak forests of upperBurma. There, with the help of an itinerant merchant from Malaca, he will makehis fortune. Yet he is haunted by the vision of Dolly, a child attendant of theroyal entourage being escorted under armed guard into exile in India. So, nowadult and wealthy, he leaves Burma to find her. Through the intertwining storiesof Dolly and Rajkumar, the history of the twentieth century is told across threegenerations, spread over three interlinked parts of the British Empire: Burma,with its conflicting undercurrents of discontent; Malaya, with its vast rubber plantation,and India, amid growing opposition to British rule.

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