The Glass Palace (DNF)

glasspalaceThe Glass Palace
by Amitov Ghosh
2000 / 512 pages
re-read rating – DNF – (did not finish)

I didn’t get all that much out of my first read (which was really a listen) so I thought I’d try this again but in print format (ebook).   I had to do that with Ghosh’s River of Smoke, the second of the Ibis Trilogy.   My first review is HERE – I went on and on about what I want in historical fiction.

Anyway,  this is the story of a young Burmese man who is born in pre-colonial Burma and orphaned at age 11.  He has to set out to “make his fortunate” which he knows he will.  En route he witnesses the overthrow of the Burmese monarchy and falls in love with a woman named Dolly,  who is of the Queen’s court.  The story continues as a family saga right up to the brink of the 21st century.    All of the monarchy characters are historical as well as a few of the others –


This is a photo of  the last King & Queen of Myanmar Pyi – a Sovereign Nation.  Exiled to Ratnagiri in India1885.  King Thibaw died there. Supayalat returned to Burma with two of her three children in 1918 after Thibaw’s death. She lived out the rest of her days devoting her life to the Buddhist faith on a government stipend.

Colonel Sladen was chief political officer with the force sent to depose King Thibaw in 1885.  On the right is a painting of the two leaders,  King Thibaw and Colonel Sladen, talking.

“King Thebaw came out to the balcony and sat down to wait for the British spokesman, Colonel Sladen. The King was wearing his royal sash and a white gaung-baung, the turban of mourning.”  (Loc 733-734) – It kind of goes with the above painting.


A family portrait, with Aung San Suu Kyi (in white) as a toddler, taken in 1947, shortly before her father’s assassination.

Aung San Suu Kyi  and her family are also historical  has been jailed many times but continues to be active as of 2012 in a freer Burma.

Ghosh really focuses on the historical – the characters and their stories never really come to life apart from the history.   I think I see that Ghosh is trying to show how history impacts the people directly in their lives.  The history is detailed and sometimes superfluous;  it kind of weighs the story down.    I think I would have enjoyed the book much more had I been better acquainted with Burmese history.

I’m not going to finish this – it’s way too heavy on the history and light on all the literary elements.   All “tell” and no “show.”

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