Monday, July 4, 2016

A wonderful and learned book about the Sundarbans

The Hungry TideThe Hungry Tide by Amitav Ghosh
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

OK, so this is one of the best books I've every read. So, now I've said it. It's also the fourth I've read by Amitav Ghosh who has by now become one my favorite authors.

The Hungry Tide takes place in the Sundarbans, a vast river system with endless mangroves in the southern part of the Indian state of West Bengal. Moving between the 1970s and the present, Ghosh tells a compelling tale of the place, its people who are some of the poorest in India subsiding on small-scale fisheries, the natural system dependent on the strong tides prevalent in the area, and the tropical cyclones that destroy the island settlements at regular intervals. At the heart are the story of an illegal Bangladeshi refugee settlement in one of the islands, the official efforts to get rid of it, and the conflict between poor people and conservation in this land of man-eating tigers and riverine dolphins. The story, told from the contrasting perspectives of a New Delhi man of letters, a young American-Indian cetologist, an elderly social activist and her late revolutionary husband, and fisherfolks on the islands, is fascinating and absorbing. And most of the setting is based on historical facts with accurate depictions of the social and natural dynamics. Amitav Ghosh, who holds a doctorate in social anthropology from Oxford, has done thorough research and knows what he is writing about. Apart from that, his characters are multidimensional and one can understand their differing viewpoints.

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