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Book Review: The Hungry Tide by Amitav Ghosh

Undisputedly ‘The Hungry Tide’ can be regarded as the best work of Amitav Ghosh. The novel has a few fact-provoking themes: adventure, silent appeal for love, nature’s wrath on human intervention, redemption, traces of lust, confrontation between the beast and the humans, and spiritual streaks to a degree. Like other great writers, in an attempt, he too have found a setting – a place where the characters of the books can be seen engaged into different conflicts and pulling the readers ultimately. The writer has prodigious imagination powers.

The story of this novel opens with Piyali Roy, often known as Piya in the book. She is adventurous by nature because her profession gives her that sort of leverage. She comes to India, from USA, to research about Irrawaddy dolphins, mainly found around the Sunderbans. In her journey she soon gets acquainted in the contact of Kanai Dutta, a businessman from Delhi. Ironically, he is not as daunting as Fokir.

If readers heed on the characterization, they would consider Fokir as the main protagonist in the book. Fokir has a boat and chants some magical verses and also knows almost all the water territories of that area – around Lusibari and many other islands, which are parts of Sunderbans.

Piya, throughout the novel, lives in the company of Fokir to take research work on Irrawaddy dolphins. Ironically, the language gap, between them, develops a silent love for each other. And Kanai is jealous of their bonding. In midway, Kanai got frightened by island’s enigmatic circumstances and returns to Lusibari - a safe place.

The book holds double narrative. First is of the ongoing life of Piya, Fokir and Kanai and his auntie Nilima. But, in flashbacks, through a diary – a second story runs parallel to much degree. It was the story of again silent love that was between Kusum, Fokir’s mother, and Nirmal – Kanai’s uncle.

The convergence of both stories sees no vantage point of union. The writer has wonderfully described the water, boats and apparently the people of that soil and forest; however he did not describe other aspects linked with the islands, boats, dolphins and rivers.

The main protagonist Fokir dies in the end while saving Piya’s life in a dreadful storm. His sacrifice was driven by love. It is astonishing to see that both Piya and Fokir feel love for each other but they never get into any sort of physical intimacy. Fokir knows that he has to sacrifice his life to reveal his fondness and love towards her, which he does in the end.

The book is a good narrative, a good read. There is no particular end or solution. The story folds on a tragic note.


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