Audiobook. This is the first in a planned triology. Hearing about the second book, the recently published River of Smoke, moved me to listen to this one. I had enjoyed The Glass Palace years ago.
From an interview I heard I knew that the trilogy is about the imposition of opium by the British East India Company on China. Sea of Poppies is set in India, where the poppies are grown and the opium processed for export to China. Of course the whole business is stunningly ugly and no one with any authority acts with any evidence of decency. In this book we get to know those who grow the poppies for a bare subsistence, we visit the processing plant where the workers have a short tenure as a result of the toxins, and we meet the British entrepreneur, a religious fellow who forces an innocent young woman to flog him. Then we meet the really unpleasant people.
There are of course some sympathetic characters: Deeti, a resourceful poppy grower, Kalua, a despised giant of a man who saved Deeti at the last moment from her husband's funeral pyre, Neel, a bankrupt land owner, Zachary Reid, a seaman of mixed race from Maryland, and Paulette Lambert, the above mentioned innocent young woman.
The story does pull you along and I listened with unfailing interest.