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Summary

Poppy tears, opium, heroin, fentanyl: humankind has been in thrall to the ‘Milk of Paradise’ for millennia. The latex of papaver somniferum is a bringer of sleep, of pleasurable lethargy, of relief from pain - and hugely addictive. A commodity without rival, it is renewable; easy to extract, transport and refine; and subject to an insatiable global demand. 

No other substance in the world is as simple to produce or as profitable. It is the basis of a gargantuan industry built upon a shady underworld, but ultimately it is a farm-gate material that lives many lives before it reaches the branded blister packet, the intravenous drip or the scorched and filthy spoon. Many of us will end our lives dependent on it. 

In Milk of Paradise, acclaimed cultural historian Lucy Inglis takes readers on an epic journey from ancient Mesopotamia to modern America and Afghanistan, from Sanskrit to pop, from poppy tears to smack, from morphine to today’s synthetic opiates. It is a tale of addiction, trade, crime, sex, war, literature, medicine and, above all, money. And, as this ambitious, wide-ranging and compelling account vividly shows, the history of opium is our history, and it speaks to us of who we are.

©2018 Lucy Inglis (P)2018 Audible, Ltd

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    3 out of 5 stars

Listen to the Silk Roads by Frankopan instead!

I've got about halfway through, and I'm finding it just about interesting enough to keep on listening. However, the author jumps about in time confusingly, writing about the 1720s one moment, and then jumping back several decades earlier the next. I'm finding it hard to keep track of where I am both geographically and historically.

The narrator doesn't help. She hasn't taken the trouble to find out how to pronounce any words that aren't standard English. Arden isn't how anybody should pronounce Aden (though this is corrected later in the narration). Mallorca is pronounced malorca, and often plain old polysyllabic English words get garbled. She pronounces the Chinese Qing dynasty as King dynasty, which is momentarily confusing. I'm happy to make allowances for automated voices, but constant mispronunciations like this show disrespect to the author, the content, and the listener.

I read the Economist every week, and something I appreciate enormously is that the writers never assume that their readers automatically know who or what they're talking about. For example, instead of just introducing the Pearl River without explaining where that is, or what it is, as Lucy Inglis does, if this were the Economist, she would add a brief explanation. Not to do so puts readers at a disadvantage, and may make them feel ignorant.

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Terrible narration. Amateurishly written.

I like books like these, very much, so I was excited to see this book so highly rated.
How disappointing, it was so bad I didn’t finish it.
The narrator has no presence and can’t hold the story. Speaks too fast as though nervous and appears to disregard grammar relating to pauses like periods(.). This leaves one a little lost as to wether a whole new sentence or idea has started or if we’re still on the previous one.
The story has potential, but the author jumps around to different aspects so much and so quickly thereby giving the feeling that she is rushing her point and wants to move on to the next point ASAP. Less is more, but not in this case - it’s almost erratic.

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Insightful

Along with Martin Booths earlier book "Opium", "Milk of Paradise" is a must read for the lifelong learner polymath and ardent researcher of mankinds history of opiate use and supply and the legacy of what I call "Weapons of social Dystopia" natural or synthetic. Like all prejudices across humanity all there will ever be is tolerance not segregation. Tom O'Rourke 1953.......? dependant

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Excellent story

really enjoyed this book...if you are interested in the history of opiates i would also recommend Dreamland by Sam Quinones. both excellent histories though from quite different viewpoints.

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  • Alednam A Uonopk
  • 29-01-20

Historical gold mine....

Nicely narrated and well researched. Plenty of information to divulge on. Opioid abuse will be a hard subject to deal with if we can't look at what brought us to this point. Amazing book. I plan on listening to it perhaps thrice.

1 person found this helpful

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  • jewelrylover
  • 08-12-19

Fascinating approach to history

I found the book well researched and informative. While the narrator was very good, my only complaint was that her English accent was a bit hard to understand. However, I highly recommend the book.

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  • From Texas
  • 05-06-21

Gods eyeballs are mankinds salvation

The long history of Opium as a problem is a reflection of modern man's escapist culture.
The pain relief roperties of ingesting opium is a gift from nature.

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  • Marjorie
  • 12-10-20

those who don't learn from history are doomed...

The sweep of this history was a bit overwhelming, from Marco Polo to the current day, but it picked up as it progressed. The story is is full of examples from many eras of how the effort to restrict access to opiates had the opposite effect. I only wish the author had integrated these patterns of opium use, abuse and regulation and had explored alternative ideas that may not have been tried.