Sunday, November 26, 2006

Tales of Tigers, Tides and Tantrums

Amitav Ghosh, an Indian writer now living in Brooklyn, has set this story in the tide country near the border of Bangladesh. The tide country is the area of India/Bangladesh that floods regularly and takes the strain of the floods from other parts of India. Originally not many people lived there, for very good reasons. But, it seems the British decided to build a town there anyway, which after 15 years was devastatingly flooded, and some other settlements also exist. Much like the 'Halligen' in the German north sea, which have quite a bit of land, but the people live in houses on top of the hillocks since the farming land is regularly flooded in the winter.

The book, set in current life, begins with three strands of stories which eventually intermingle. They involve an interpreter, and Indian American dolphin scientist, and an older man who was a bit of a left radical, plus numerous love interests, bits of corruption, bad government policies, folk tales and lots of nature and weather. This, particularly at the beginning, gives the author excessive opportunity to build in cliff-hangers - 'suddenly she was falling and the muddy brown water rushed up to her face' - which are then followed by a chapter about one of the other characters. A bit wooden, this, but it becomes less necessary and obvious as the book goes on. The book builds up nicely to its climax which we see coming a mile off, since all the dangers of the tide country are on everyone's lips.

It's a good and thrilling read, and in an author's note at the end he states that some of the historical events described in the book really did happen. While not the heaviest of literature I like books like this which describes the small aspects of other cultures in passing, like what people wear, what and how they eat and live, modes of transport, their daily routines and so on.

powered by performancing firefox