Summary and book reviews of The Glass Palace by Amitav Ghosh

The Glass Palace

by Amitav Ghosh

The Glass Palace
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2001, 512 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 2002, 496 pages

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Book Summary

'The struggles that have made Burma, India, and Malaya the places they are today are illuminated in this wonderful novel by a master storyteller.'

Brilliant and impassioned, The Glass Palace is a masterly novel by Amitav Ghosh, the gifted novelist Peter Matthiessen has called "an exceptional writer". This superb story of love and war begins with the shattering of the kingdom of Burma and the igniting of a great and passionate love, and it goes on to tell the story of a people, a fortune, and a family and its fate.

The Glass Palace tells of Rajkumar, a poor boy lifted on the tides of political and social chaos, who creates an empire in the Burmese teak forest. During the British invasion of 1885, when soldiers force the royal family out of the Glass Palace and into exile, Rajkumar befriends Dolly, the woman whose love will shape his life. He cannot forget her, and years later, as a rich man, he goes in search of her.

PART I
Mandalay

Chapter One

There was only one person in the food-stall who knew exactly what that sound was that was rolling in across the plain, along the silver curve of the Irrawaddy, to the western wall of Mandalay's fort. His name was Rajkumar and he was an Indian, a boy of eleven — not an authority to be relied upon.

The noise was unfamiliar and unsettling, a distant booming followed by low, stuttering growls. At times it was like the snapping of dry twigs, sudden and unexpected. And then, abruptly, it would change to a deep rumble, shaking the food-stall and rattling its steaming pot of soup. The stall had only two benches, and they were both packed with people, sitting pressed up against each other. It was cold, the start of central Burma's brief but chilly winter, and the sun had not risen high enough yet to burn off the damp mist that had drifted in at dawn from the river. When the first booms reached the stall there was a silence, followed by a flurry of ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. In an interview, Amitav Ghosh said of his work, The Glass Palace, "one can examine the truths of individuals in history definitely more completely in fiction than one can in history." Discuss this statement as it pertains to the novel. Which truths do his characters reveal?

  2. Look closely at the characters whom Ghosh envisions in the most detail, Rajkumar, Dolly, Uma, Arjun, to name a few. They become extraordinary in our minds of the reader, as we travel with them through a century of social upheaval and political turmoil. But according to the social structure, they are all, or once were, relatively ordinary individuals. What is the effect of focusing a novel of such grand, epic sweep, on members of common society? How does this ...
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Reviews

Media Reviews

Publisher's Weekly

... Ghosh is a beguiling and endlessly resourceful storyteller, and he boasts one of the most arresting openings in recent fiction ...

Library Journal

Ghosh has done well with books like The Calcutta Chromosome, but this multigenerational tale, which evokes the British takeover of Burma, is his first large-scale book.

Author Blurb Melvin Jules Bukiet
Amitav Ghosh's The Glass Palace is like the royal Burmese castle its title refers to exotically expansive, yet filled with intricately-rendered nooks and niches. A century of traumatic subcontinental history provides the architectural background to the intimate details of Ghosh's characters' lives. He conveys all of this with serenity and moral strength in the face of overwhelming turmoil. His book is a singular achievement.

Author Blurb Jonathan Levi
Ghosh writes with the microscope of Charles Dickens and the cinemascope of David Lean.

Author Blurb Chitra Divakaruni
The struggles that have made Burma, India, and Malaya the places they are today are illuminated in this wonderful novel by a master storyteller... A powerful novel with an epic sweep, filled with tender, convincing detail. Ghosh is a master storyteller.

Reader Reviews

alphonsa philip

amitav ghosh the glass palace- a brilliant novel
A very moving and enlightening novel. Ghosh has done extensive exploration not of one but many countries. its not only brilliant in its style but also in keeping the reader in a fix of whats next? it not only unfolds life of different people from ...   Read More

Kim Balmanno

Amitav Ghosh's novel The Glass Palace is an epic journey through three generations, set in Burma, India and Malay. The characters encapsulate the pain of colonialisation and come to terms with the violence and destructive energy of empire on their ...   Read More

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