Friday, January 26, 2007

'The Hungry Tide' by Amitav Ghosh

Amitav Ghosh is a fabulous writer, who's polished and beautiful prose inspires. His last book 'The Glass Palace' was one great book weaving the history of Burma, India, the World War II with fiction to concoct a very well-researched tale. In 'The Hungry Tide' he gets better. It is the best book of his till date ('The Shadow Lines' for its inter-continental tale and 'Calcutta Chromosome' for its sheer novelty come second and third in my list). 'The Hungry Tide' is set in the tide country of the Sundarbans with its mangrove forests and Royal Bengal tigers, enough to send a thrill of anticipation up your spine. The book is fast-paced and mysterious, as well as mellow and langurous, simultaneously. Starting off with the travails of a lady researcher (Piya) in dolphins and marine mammals (cetologist) from the US, the tale courses through the upheavals in the life of a social worker (Nilima) and her husband (Nirmal), along with their nephew - a translator from Delhi (Kanai) - the typical city-bred. An affection triangle of sorts builds between the translator and the resarcher as well as a local fisherman (Fokir), and as the researcher hires a diesel jetty and heads off to research the gangetic dolphin species - Orcaella; in the mean while human emotions, nature's beauty, social displacement, folklore and unexpected situations spring up, ending in a disturbing yet redeeming conclusion. It brings up certain dichotomies which are not easily resolvable - such as nature conservation vs human displacement; practical vs dreamy, idealistic men; nature's beauty vs its vagaries and unpredictability. A must read for the sheer capacity of language, imagination, descriptive style and all the above. 5 stars !

Currently reading 'NEXT' by Michael Crichton, his fast, expletive-laden tale on genetic engineering is an absolute page turner, completely unstoppable pace.