A masterful novel of love, war and family and presents us with a band of memorable characters, spread across Burma, Malaya and India, and across three generations - before the door to Burma closes behind them, and the glittering light of that civilisation seems extinguished. Rajkumar is only a boy, helping out on a market stall in the dusty square outside the royal palace in Mandalay, when the British force the Burmese King, Queen and court into exile. He is rescued by a far-seeing Chinese merchant and with him builds up a great logging business in upper Burma. But haunted by his vision of the Royal Family and one of their attendants, he journeys to the obscure town in India where they have been exiled, and his family and friends become inextricably linked with theirs. Through the lives of the wider family and connections, an extraordinary story of this century is told: in Malaya, amid the vast rubber plantations, in India, among the growing nationalist feeling, in America where ideas of democracy and terrorist action, as well as business acumen, could be learnt. By the time World War II arrives, Rajkumar - who had made and lost several fortunes -has spread his family and influence from the great estate at Morningside where his son will be involved in the British collapse in Singapore, and one of his relations in the remarkable rebellion of the Indian troops against their British officers. Another of the great characters, the formidable Indian widow, Uma, becomes a spearhead of the Indian nationalist movement and provides a final refuge for the battered remnants of the family as they flee from Burma before the Japanese advance in a horrifying trek across appalling terrain. And it is his grand-daughter who survives that experience who brings the readers back to contemporary Burma, and completes the circle of the family started so long ago in Mandalay. Amitav Ghosh, author of "The Calcutta Chromosome" and "The Shadow Lives", makes his great cast of characters live in readers' minds, and peoples and illuminates the extraordinary, turbulent history of the Burmese over the last 100 years. Review: 'A tantalising meditation... richly complex and satisfying' Sunday Times 'A distinctive voice, polished and profound' TLS Review: Rajkumar Raha is 12 when he is orphaned on a sampan tethered in a mangrove-lined estuary on the way to Chittagong. He makes his way to Mandalay just ahead of the British arriving to depose King Thebaw. On the eve of the Royal Family's departure into exile, Raha sees, in the Glass Palace, Dolly, the Queen's 10-year-old handmaid. This - in fine Romantic tradition - is obsession at first sight. Almost 20 years later, having made his fortune in timber, Raha seeks out Dolly in her exile in Ratnagiri. Throughout the novel, the Empire expands and then retracts, fortunes are won and lost, the face of the world changes. The novel follows Raha's family through 3 generations and many cities. It teems with servants of the British Empire and with their colonial subjects. This is the East as seen by its own people, described by a writer whose allegiance is simply to the human. Ghosh is one of the most sympathetic post-colonial voices to be heard today. He looks at love and loyalty, and examines questions of Empire and responsibility, of tradition and modernity. A funny, sad, entertaining, wise and - ultimately - a hopeful book. I loved it. Review by AHDAF SOUEIF Editor's note: Ahdaf Soueif is the author of 'The Map of Love'; for a full review see the Aprill 2000 issue. (Kirkus UK)

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