A British writer unravels the history of the drug that has both healed and harmed since the beginning of civilization, tracing its emergence and evolution through to present-day addictions to derivatives such as OxyContin and heroin.
Lucy Inglis’s fabulous book Milk of Paradise is the history of civilization as shaped by opium ... Milk of Paradise coolly exposes some of today’s global business brands as yesterday’s drug lords ... in her restrained, lucid prose ... Milk of Paradise is a triumph, epic in scale and full of humanity.
Ms. Inglis untangles...contradictions with gusto, guiding readers from primitive Neolithic experiments with poppies to the modern 'war on drugs.' Her narrative is propelled by savagery and greed ... Sometimes Milk of Paradise reads like fiction. Occasionally the author overcrowds this narrative with incidental characters; in what is a panoramic survey, she is prone to the odd tendentious claim. Nonetheless, this is a deeply researched and captivating book. The final chapters, in which Ms. Inglis escapes the archives, are especially compelling. Her interviews provide rich insights into the modern heroin trade.
Ms. Inglis gives a darting, scurrying account ... All of this ground has been covered by innumerable previous authors. Ms. Inglis’s version is bustling and seldom stops to dig to any depth. There are interesting moments ... however, Milk of Paradise is lightweight and even imperceptive compared with, say, David Musto’s The American Disease (1973) ... Ms. Inglis spent four years writing her well-meaning book. It is disappointing that she did not spend equivalent time revising it under a good editor’s supervision. The book meanders ... The sources cited by Ms. Inglis also raise problems ... Milk of Paradise might help you win Trivial Pursuit, but it is too eccentric to be a sound guide to opiates.