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Review: The Glass Palace, by Amitav Ghosh

“This is a historical novel – a dynastic family saga set against a well written, extraordinarily well researched history, principally of Burma. Three countries are involved in the tale: Burma, Malaya and India (the older terminology is used deliberately here). There are three elements. First, the end of the Burmese monarchy and the shameful (?) role of the British in this at the turn of the 19th / 20th century. Second, the painful rags-to-riches history of one Rajkumar, whose family story is woven throughout the narrative, and third, a discussion of the modern Burma.

At all stages the political thoughts of the various parties are discussed as the narrative unfolds. In the later stages no punches are pulled regarding the Indian National Army, an entity of which I was completely unaware. I also was fascinated by a detailed and informative digression on the practicalities of timber exploitation and the use of elephants.

The span of the book is from about 1885 to modern times and the background to modern Burma’s troubles become clearer. This is not a dry history. It is so well written with much humour and pathos. An easy read but very rewarding as well as enjoyable. I highly recommend it.”