Amitav Ghosh, the author of
4 previous novels including
Palace, spent four years researching this
book, including living in a small village in
the Sundarbans for some weeks. It's a
gorgeous book that works on a number of
levels - part love story, part political
history and part meticulously researched
environmental study. As Publishers Weekly
puts it, "One doesn't so much read Ghosh's
masterful fifth novel as inhabit his
characters and the alluring if treacherous
The starting point for The Hungry Tide was a piece of Ghosh's family history - a century ago a wealthy Scot attempted to set up a Marxist-style utopia on one of the flood-plagued islands. Ghosh's uncle was a teacher and manager in the project.
The Sundarbans area includes the delta of the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers on the Bay of Bengal, some of which is in India but mostly in Bangladesh. The area, which has been designated a World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve, is intersected by a complex network of tidal waterways, mudflats and small islands of salt-tolerant mangrove forests, with a wide variety of native fauna including 260 bird species, Bengal tigers, estuarine crocodiles and Indian pythons, and about 4 million humans.
This review was originally published in May 2005, and has been updated for the June 2006 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.
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