Book: The Hungry Tide
Author: Amitav Ghosh
Publisher: Penguin Viking
Price: Rs 399
Rating: 4.2 out of 5
Review: ‘The Hungry Tide’ is one of those rare books which will not just amaze you with its detailed analysis of human relationships but will also enchant you with the unblemished narration. Besides, it is a book having intriguing settings which itself raises the interest level of the reader to meteoric heights. And Amitav Ghosh is one of those authors who can be compared with none other than Amitav Ghosh himself. He elicits so much respect, bordering on reverence, that as a heavy reader, you immediately begin to look up to him as a man with extraterrestrial intellect and eruditeness.
‘The Hungry Tide’ is the story of many lives of many people residing in the ‘tide country’, better known as the Sundarbans. This book is a foray into the lives of all those countless, nameless and faceless people who brave the tide and the tiger to survive in this Mangrove-infested unfriendly geographical area. For a common city-dwelling reader, this book will be a journey into an unchartered world where life does not come easy and every moment poses a battle for survival.
Spread over 430 pages, the author’s pen has so much to tell that it is frightfully hard to jot down a synopsis of the story. There are multiple characters and their lives do get crisscrossed as emotions overlap each other and new relations are born while some old ones die. Still, it would be fair to say that ‘The Hungry Tide’ is essentially the story of Piya and Kanai, the lead protagonists with completely different backgrounds, professions and mindsets. It is through sheer serendipity that the two chance upon each other in the ‘tide country’ and soon fate strings them together with fetters of companionship. While Piya is a cetologist who travels to Sundarbans to study the elusive dolphins, Kanai is summoned there by his aunt Nilima who wants her nephew to read the notebook left behind for him by his late uncle Nirmal.
Other vital characters whose lives entwine alongside them are Fokir, Moyna, Horen and Tutul. Then there is the late Kusum whose fiery personality and revolutionary spirit come to the fore once Kanai starts reading his uncle’s notebook.
The book is charged with heavy yet restrained emotions. Be it the subdued silent love story between an America-bred Piya and a boatman Fokir, or be it the love-hate camaraderie shared between Piya and Kanai, or be it the bitter-sweet symphonies of matrimony which Fokir and his wife Moyna experience- all these human relationships have been explored by the author in their profound and precise vividness.
The crafty author stitches up an engaging style of narration where he shifts from one story to another in every succeeding chapter with the ease of a seasoned writer. The language is so delightfully chaste and idiomatic that the book can be used as a case-study for amateur writers and students. The depth which Amitav penetrates in the crevices of human hearts and merely through use of words is a subject of sheer incredulity.
Despite being a thick volume, ‘The Hungry Tide’ has no dull moment. The plot is devious, the narrative is poetic and the characters are potent. From death to life, from romance to malice, from hope to desolation, from thrill to quiet, from drama to history, from religion to revolution, from the tabooed tiger to the marauding cyclone-this book has got it all.
There are books, there are good books, and then there are books like ‘The Hungry Tide’. In one single word, it is a rhapsody. Ghosh, simply, sweeps you off with his tide of words.
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