July 17, 2005

The Hungry Tide - Amitava Ghosh

A book that falls short of my expectations. Perhaps my expectations were too high or that of the reviewers who had fanned my interest were too low or perhaps this is the benchmark of current Indian English literature .... you could look at it in any which way you choose.

This is a book crafted in a workshop, not created in the crucible of imagination or ecstasy. It is meticulous no doubt, with the stamp of scholarship of someone who has had the luxury of spending a lot of time to do research on (a) the geographics and demographics of the Tide Country ( aka the Sundarbans ) and (b) the behavioural characteristics of the river dolphin. Good topics of research no doubt but hey I am interested in a reading novel, not a thesis.

Coming down to the novel itself ....it is nice no doubt. Not much of a plot but more of a framework that the author needed to hang his twin theses on ! I like Fokir for his rustic simplicity but would have been happier if he could have raised himself out his mundane lifestyle to deliver some kind of a message ( or did he try and fail ?) to the paper tigers that haunt the tide country .... the incredibly inane Nirmal and his virtuous do-gooder wife Nilima, the patently fraudulent Kanai and the impossibility of Piya. Actually Fokir, his mother Kusum and their shrine at Garjontola could have been the axis of a wonderful story that was unfortunately hijacked by the city slickers and finally blown up in an act of desperation by an author who ran out of ideas.

Perhaps I am being too harsh on this novel. It is a good time pass and there is a structure but what really got my goat was that the loose ends got tied up all too elegantly in the end. That is not what happens in real life.

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book purchased at Delhi Airport before flight boarding flight 9W 911 to Calcutta on 13th July 2005

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