This is the first book of Amitav Ghosh that I’ve read. I learned of his body of work from a in interview by Barkha Dutt on ND24 (an Indian news channel). While the main portion of the inteview revolved around his latest book (Sea of Poppies), there were several of his books that were mention and live audience questions seemed to indicate that his writings were regarded rather well. His own answers to questions about the development of the characters in his books seemed to be well thought out and the way he seemed to address some of the queries that Incendiary Circumstances, a collection of non-fiction essays, raised was elegant at the very least. Having read the book, though, I’m not sure he did much more than repeat what was already in the book.
Coming to the book itself now – it’s a mixed bag. There are some essays that are well told and equally so, some definitely not. The ones that he has written well are those with little political opinion and rich description of the unique traits of people (individuals and not groups, national, religious or otherwise). “The Greatest Sorrow” and ‘The Ghat of the World” are probably the best of the lot. “The Fundamentalist Challenge” and “The Ghosts of Mrs.Gandhi” are the worst. Some like “The Egyptian in Baghdad” and “The Imam and the Indian” don’t seem to really say much. Right now, I’m in the middle of reading “The Glass Palace” which is a work of fiction by Amitav Ghosh. I must say, his work of fiction is better than non-fiction. Perhaps the author ought to stick to that genre.
Verdict: Give it a miss. There are better books out there e.g. works of fiction by the same author.