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There are one million new books published each year. With so many books and so little time, where do you begin to find your next must-read? There’s the New York Times Bestseller list, the Goodreads app, the Cape Library’s Staff picks shelf and now Martin’s Must-Reads.Every Wednesday at 6:42 and 8:42 a.m., and Sunday at 8:18 a.m., Betty Martin recommends a must read based on her own personal biases for historical fiction, quirky characters and overall well-turned phrases. Her list includes WWII novels, biographies of trailblazers, novels with truly unique individuals and lots more. Reading close to 100 titles a year, Betty has plenty of titles to share.Local support for "Martin's Must Reads" comes from the Cape Girardeau Public Library and the Poplar Bluff Municipal Library.

Martin's Must Reads: 'Sea of Poppies'

“At the heart of this vibrant saga is an old slave ship the Ibis. It’s destiny is a tumultuous voyage across the Indian Ocean, its purpose to fight in China’s vicious nineteenth-century Opium Wars. As for the crew, they are a motley array of sailors and stowaways, coolies and convicts.”

I’m Betty Martin with "Martin’s Must Reads" and that quote is from the fly leaf of Amitav Ghosh’s novel Sea of Poppies.  It was published in 2008 and is the first of a trilogy. This book takes some time to read because it’s rich in details and foreign words, including a whole different dialect  spoken by the sailors. (The book includes a thirty page glossary in the back.)

The novel’s journey has three parts: Land, River and Sea. It begins in India in the mid 1800’s when the British ruled India and made a lot of money off the sale of Indian grown opium to the Chinese.

Some of the main characters include Deeta, a recent widow, Kaula her new husband, Paula , a young woman under the care of a rich British family, Jodu, a recently orphaned young man, Zachary, a young American sailor and Neel, a former Raja, imprisoned for a fake forgery charge. They all have reasons to escape to a better life and find themselves together on the merchant ship the Ibis. In the hold of the ship are a hundred indentured Indians heading to a new land and hopefully a better life. The sailors and first mate are ruthless men.

If you have the time and inclination to savor a detailed adventure, then you must read Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh.

Betty Martin was born in Boston, Massachusetts to a Lutheran pastor and his organist wife. Betty’s love of books was inspired by her father who read to all four children each night.
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