In 1883, the British government sent the accomplished linguist Sir George Grierson to look into alleged abuses in the recruitment of indentured servants from India (known as “coolies”) who ended up on ships bound for British plantations throughout the world. In his diary, Grierson wrote about an encounter with the father of one female coolie in a village along the Ganges, noting that the man “denied having any such relative, and probably she had gone wrong and been disowned by him.” The historical record provides only a trace of this woman: a name, a processing number, a year of emigration.
In his ambitious new novel, “Sea of Poppies,” a finalist for this year’s Man Booker Prize, Amitav Ghosh attempts to fill in the blanks left by the archives. Continue reading
my review of the book in The New York Times.