I was on a roll early this year reading strictly from my TBR piles. And even when I broke it, reading the first two books of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan series from the library, I was still, in my mind, reading books I planned on reading for some time.
But I really broke the streak when I picked up The Hungry Tide (Amitav Ghosh, 2005), a book I’d gotten only recently in the library book sale. Perhaps it is the change of seasons, but I was really ready for a book to take me on a journey somewhere else. This book delivered.
The Hungry Tide is set in the Indian Sundarbans. I think I’d seen part of a TV special on this fascinating region. The Sundarbans are the earth’s largest mangrove forests that make up the delta of four major rivers dumping into the Bay of Bengal. The border of India and Bangladesh runs through the center. The muddy, swampy islands and labyrinthine waterways of the Sundarbans are home to a variety of creatures, many dangerous and or endangered, including saltwater crocodiles, tigers, snakes, birds, and rare river dolphins. The tigers in this region, in particular, are known to be man eaters, and hundreds of people are killed every year by them. The area is poor, and people risk their lives to venture into tiger territory to find honey or collect firewood. The locals lives are also made precarious by the daily tides that engulf entire islands and eat away at the boundaries of others, not to mention the effects of the periodic ravages of storms. But the tides are also what give the area life and bounty. In short, this was — to me — a really fascinating setting for a novel. Continue reading