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The Hungry Tide

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Off the easternmost corner of India, in the Bay of Bengal, lies the immense labyrinth of tiny islands known as the Sundarbans, where settlers live in fear of drowning tides and man-eating tigers. Piya Roy, a young American marine biologist of Indian descent, arrives in this lush, treacherous landscape in search of a rare species of river dolphin and enlists the aid of a local fisherman and a translator. Together the three of them launch into the elaborate backwaters, drawn unawares into the powerful political undercurrents of this isolated corner of the world that exact a personal toll as fierce as the tides.

333 pages, Paperback

First published June 7, 2004

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About the author

Amitav Ghosh

45 books3,385 followers
Amitav Ghosh is one of India's best-known writers. His books include The Circle of Reason, The Shadow Lines, In An Antique Land, Dancing in Cambodia, The Calcutta Chromosome, The Glass Palace, Incendiary Circumstances, The Hungry Tide. His most recent novel, Sea of Poppies, is the first volume of the Ibis Trilogy.

Amitav Ghosh was born in Calcutta in 1956. He studied in Dehra Dun, New Delhi, Alexandria and Oxford and his first job was at the Indian Express newspaper in New Delhi. He earned a doctorate at Oxford before he wrote his first novel, which was published in 1986.

The Circle of Reason won the Prix Medicis Etranger, one of France's top literary awards, and The Shadow Lines won the Sahitya Akademi Award and the Ananda Puraskar. The Calcutta Chromosome won the Arthur C. Clarke Award for 1997 and The Glass Palace won the Grand Prize for Fiction at the Frankfurt International e-Book Awards in 2001. The Hungry Tide won the Hutch Crossword Book Prize in 2006. In 2007 Amitav Ghosh was awarded the Grinzane Cavour Prize in Turin, Italy. Amitav Ghosh has written for many publications, including the Hindu, The New Yorker and Granta, and he has served on the juries of several international film festivals, including Locarno and Venice. He has taught at many universities in India and the USA, including Delhi University, Columbia, the City University of New York and Harvard. He no longer teaches and is currently writing the next volume of the Ibis Trilogy.

He is married to the writer, Deborah Baker, and has two children, Lila and Nayan. He divides his time between Kolkata, Goa and Brooklyn.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,452 reviews
Profile Image for Praveen.
148 reviews279 followers
November 22, 2019
“The true tragedy of routinely spent life is that its wastefulness does not become apparent till it is too late.”

This quote does not reflect the theme of this book but it caught my eye in this green-covered book in my hand when today I was flipping its pages thinking what to write about it.

It’s tea time and there is a tray ready on a side table with two pieces of cookies. A squirrel on the wall of the garden is eating something in a ravenous way. I have no idea what is that something, it’s scanty for my eyes, but it must be something very delicious which can be assumed by observing the way this little creature is feeding itself, using both its hands fleetly and effectively.

In fact, for the past few days, I am routinely spending my time this way only, in the evening. A finished book in my hand at tea time… I thinking something to write about it on GR…. Two routinely placed cookies on the side table… A squirrel doing something always on the garden wall and then me postponing writing about the book for one more day. But this quote surprisingly worked as a catalyst today motivating me to write a review as it evoked the sentiments of this mentioned wastefulness in me and I quickly decided to talk about the book here before it’s too late. :)

So…Talking about the book, Piyali Roy(Piya) is an Indian origin American cetologist. She studies marine mammals. She comes to India near her ancestral place in the hope to get a permit to do a survey of marine mammals of Sunderbans.

Kanai, who thinks that he has the true connoisseur’s ability to both praise and appraise women, spots her, the moment he reaches onto a crowded platform. Inside the train coach when she was trying to maneuver the cup of tea from the tea seller through the bar of the window then this man (Kanai) sitting opposite to the seat of Piya, suddenly flips over a page. With the jolting of her hand, she tries to make sure most of the tea spill out of the window but she could not prevent a small trickle from shooting over his papers. With a mortified sorry from the Piya there begins the interaction between the two and with their acquaintance begins this exotic tale from the pen of Amitav Ghosh. She does her research and Kanai translates for her some critical things facilitating her understanding of local ambiance and culture.

This story takes the reader on a trip to the long chain of the archipelago of the Bay of Bengal. It talks about the ways of boatmen in the region. It’s an adventure read for lovers of the sea and riverine adventures, loaded with some interesting real facts and some interesting myth prevailed in a specified area of Bengal.

The story moves in time and space both. Characters of the present time are Kanai, Fokir, and Piya and the main character of the past is Nirmal. Intricacy and suspense in the plot are kept in the old diary of Nirmal, which is read by Kanai to connect the dots of events. Amitav has touched many issues like refugee, freedom, war, government, and tribal conflict, ecology, marine life and lives in seaside habitats in this book.

The most beautiful part of the story for me was the reticent and self-effacing bond between Fokir and Piya. Piya is an educated English-speaking marine biologist and Fokir is a local boatman who knows the only local language, He does not know what she says and she does not know what he says. He saves her life in the early part of the story and then plays a crucial part in the latter part of the story. The restrained communication of emotions between the two despite the language barrier provides the real delight in this story. It was symbolically written and crafted by Ghosh in a very alluring way.

“What was he thinking about as he stared at the moonlit river? The forests, the crabs?

Whatever it was she would never know: not just because they had no language in common but because that was how it was with human beings, who came equipped as a species, with the means of shutting each other out. The two of them Fokir and herself, they could have been boulders and trees for all they knew of each other: and wasn’t it better in a way, more honest, that they could not speak? For if you compared it to the ways in which Dolphins’ echoes mirrored the world, speech was the only bag of tricks that fooled you into believing that you could see through the eyes of another being.”

In my sailing through this beautiful story, I also encountered some well researched scientific facts about mammal creatures and about the history of those small islands in the Bay of Bengal. The mixing of faith and mythical belief in the story made it more interesting for the reader. Ghosh has tried his best to keep the story equally relevant for both the native readers and for the general English readers and he has done it quite successfully.

One other important thing that happened to me while reading this book.. somewhere in the latter half Ghosh has tried to translate a mythical story through one of his character and while reading two pages of that chapter completely which was certainly looking similar in structure with the previous prose style, I suddenly found that there was something rhyming and verse like there, I flipped back and rereading those paragraphs again, realizing this time that Ghosh has deliberately and wonderfully created an English pastiche of the Bengali metre dwipadi poyar: a rhymed couplet of about 12 syllables. It was a really wonderful thing in the book. An English reader can have a feel of a mythical poem keeping with its essence in the original form. It was fun reading and knowing about it.

A fulfilling reading journey for me with such fascinating penmanship of Ghosh.
Profile Image for Andrea.
756 reviews31 followers
August 29, 2016
I know Amitav Ghosh isn't for everyone, but I just adore his writing. I can't think of another author who can transport me to another place the way he does - whether it's India, somewhere else in Asia, the US or the UK. I haven't yet visited the Sundarbans, but after reading The Hungry Tide I feel like I've squelched my toes in the mud and scratched my skin on the mangrove roots of that region.

Piya Roy and Kanai (rhymes with Hawaii) Dutt meet on a train when both are traveling to the Sundarbans; Piya to study the Irrawaddy dolphin population and Kanai to visit his aunt and review a manuscript left to him by his long-departed uncle. Through a series of events, Piya unexpectedly finds herself on Lusibari island, taking up Kanai's casual invitation to look him up while she's in the area. Both get caught up in the region's past, in different ways, and by the end they have both mapped out a future for themselves that is tied to the Sundarbans. The story includes themes about conservation, ecology, displacement, human trafficking, caste, literacy and economic disparity.

One thing I didn't really find convincing was the idea that either of the main characters would have seriously contemplated any kind of romantic involvement with each other. There didn't seem to be any spark. But that was such an inconsequential element of the story that it didn't lessen my overall enjoyment at all.
Profile Image for Jack Edwards.
Author 1 book184k followers
February 7, 2020
A fascinating and gripping read given an insight into a subaltern history. In particular, I enjoyed the exploration of language and who is given the ability to write history. However, there were slightly cringeworthy elements tacked onto the end of each chapter, especially the final lines of the novel. This cheapened the novel slightly and seemed a bit out of place.
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,566 reviews56k followers
January 22, 2018
The hungry tide, 2005, Amitav Ghosh,
تاریخ نخستین خوانش: سی ام ماه دسامبر سال 2013 میلادی
عنوان: امواج گرسنه؛ نویسنده: آمیتاو گوش؛ مترجم: ناهیده هاشمی؛ تهران، آموت، در 590 ص؛ شابک: 9786005941845؛ ‏‏موضوع: داستان‌های نویسندگان هندی (انگلیسی) -- قرن 21 م
جوان بنگالی «پیا» که در آمریکا بزرگ شده با هدف تحقیق روی دلفینها به سانداربانز میرود، آنجا مجمع الجزایری است که رود گنگ به خلیج بنگال میریزد. از آنجایی که تحصیلات خود را در آمریکا گذرانده، او نیز همچون دیگر همنسلان آسیایی- آمریکایی خود از زبان مادری بی بهره است. متمرکز، پویا و از سر تجربه با اعتماد به نفس کارش را آغاز میکند. به خاطر سانحه غرق شدن کشتی مجبور میشود به قایقرانی که به عنوان راهنما و محافظ در آبهای خروشان ساندربانز کار میکند پناه برد. او همچنین کانای، مرد جوان بنگالی کار بلدی را میبیند که در حال بازدید از آن منطقه است. آنها با یکدیگر بر سر موضوعاتی نظیر، داستان قابل توجه تاریخ، اقوام، بوم شناسی، مهاجرت، عشق و اندوه صحبت میکنند. در افسانه های هندی رود توانمند گنگ خودش را از مسیرهای شیوا، خدای آبادانی و خرابی -که نزدیک خلیج بنگال در راهی هزارتو است- آزاد میکند تا سانداربانز را خلق کند. آنجا باریکه ای پهناور از جنگلهای حرا است، که هزاران هکتار ناحیه سرسبز با امواج خروشان به وجود آمده اند. نویسنده، هنرمندانه این مکان را انتقامجو جلوه میدهد، جایی که خیال و واقعیت پیوسته با یکدیگر همپوشانی دارند. در هر لحظه ای انسان میتواند تردیدی به مخالفت تمام عیار این ناحیه به حضور او (از سر ابتکار و جذابیت منطقه و عزمی برای نابودی انسان) به خود راه دهد. ا. شربیانی
11 reviews
April 8, 2008
If Shadow Lines enthralled you, Amitav Ghosh's latest masterpiece, the Hungry Tide, will sweep you off your feet, and into the precarious waters of the Sundarbans.In the typical Ghosh style, the narrative moves fluidly between past and present. You will be transported into the mindset of the superstitious yet brave folk, who have adapted themselves to the constant ebb and flow of the tide and are living in continuous fear of the Bengal tigers. The tide begins to turn with the advent of two seekers from the outside world - Piyali Roy, an Indian-American marine biologist in search of the Irrawaddy dolphins and Kanai Dutt, an urbane translator from New Delhi who's there to retrieve his deceased uncle Nirmal's journal. Their lives become intertwined particularly with Fokir, an illiterate but proud fisherman, who has the "rivers in his heart." As the narrative progresses, they are forced to respect nature in order to survive, and to communicate with people who differ not only in language but also in equations of existence. It is a story of love, revolution, brutal history and the place of man within the treacheries of nature. It seems to underscore Nirmal's observation that "nothing escapes the maw of the tides."
Profile Image for Pavel Nedelcu.
298 reviews126 followers
December 18, 2021

If you are curious about what climate change is provoking in Bangladesh and East India, you should read this novel although, of course, the story is not only about that.

Ghosh also writes about corruption, love, science, traditional beliefs, poverty, the clash between at least two different ways of thinking and seeing the world.

All this while delivering great psychological potraits.
Profile Image for Stephen Durrant.
666 reviews146 followers
January 4, 2009
I have mixed feelings about "The Hungry Tide." Amitav Ghosh tells a large story firmly set in a particular place--the Mangrove-covered islands in the estuary of the Ganges River. The story has everything: love, class-difference, political conflict, natural and man-made catastrophes, and, of course, dolphins, tigers, and crocodiles (dangerous encounters with the latter two, friendly encounters with the first). And that's the problem. The story is contrived and contains dialogue that frequently doesn't ring true. Moreover, Ghosh is maybe too eager to teach us what he knows of the natural history of his native land (more about the Irrawaddy Dolphin, for example, than I ever wanted to know). Overarching all of this is a kind authorial sensitivity, working manfully towards a suitably acceptable happy ending. Still, one reads forward, swept along by Ghosh's "big story." He is trying, I think, to write a best-seller with enough literary art to stop just short of being embarrassing. He succeeds for the most part, but it all seems a little too calculated and nice to this cynical reader. Yes, I liked it, sort of, but is that enough?
1,453 reviews126 followers
August 7, 2016
Home is where Orcaella are - says Pia
Home is where I can brew a perfect cup,of tea - says Nilima
Home is where books as fine as this reside - says Me

This was a very educational journey into the tide country - the Sunderbans.
So far, Sunderban has just been a printed name in my geography text books of yore. After years I encountered it in all its glory, ruthlessness and ethereal beauty, along with the magical folklore, which seems almost real to me, and the majestic man eating tiger.
I will never forget the beauty of a rainbow hanging low over moonlight, or the ruthless storm uprooting giant trees as if those were small twigs placed in the ground,,or the madly rushing tidal waters of the river, or the groups of river dolphins.
I learnt a lot from Pia, Nirmal, Horen and Fokir.
I learnt to love animals and nature. I became an environmentalist, a zoologist, a thinker. (philosophy still eludes me)
The ending was majestic.
I will not forget Fokir for a long time to come. I will be less judgemental of people whom I encounter in my day to day life.
Every person has something which I don't have, every person has a higher education than their counterpart in one way or other.

thank you, Amitav Ghosh :-)
Profile Image for Eti.
129 reviews155 followers
November 9, 2015
Amitav Ghosh, I must say is an amazing story teller and in this book he proved beyond doubt that literary skill of the Bengali is redoubtable!

Absolutely engrossing, this book is one such where you come across a great story which is amazingly written and make you an instant fan of the author.

This book is well researched and the story is set in the 70's, and it revolves around the Sundarbans and have this lovely descriptions of the land, the people and the animals(I would actually call it informative!)

Why 4 stars to this book, even though it is such an amazing book? Yes, because at times the writer seems to me a bit too cynical and calculative.

And I'm bit ashamed of myself that I read just one book by this finest Indian writer. However, I'm planning to read his other books soon! and I grant his books a permanent position in my reading list(until they disappoint me).
126 reviews96 followers
March 1, 2018
One of Amitav Ghosh's best books, I would say. The setting of the book is in the 'Sundarbans' in Eastern India– a vast forest in the coastal region of the Bay of Bengal and considered one of the natural wonders of the world. There is not much of a story as such in the novel, but there are excellent characters and visual depictions of the Sundarbans. The landscape plays a prominent role in the book. One could almost breathe 'Sundarbans'. However, unlike forests in Himalayan ranges in the North, 'Sunderbans' display a certain kind of calm and beauty, but also leave a trail of heavy suffocation especially during the monsoon; they are dark, humid, uninviting and there is always a sense of danger lurking in the air.

On the more brighter note, I loved reading about the landscape shown in the book, it is like I am knowing deeply a character, with its varied shades, in the novel. The fact that such a region exists– with its flora and fauna– is delightful. The immense density of these forests, the presence of white tigers (the Bengal tiger) make this place, among other things, precious.

The other thing I liked about the book is the character portrayal of Fokir, a fisherman, a native of the place– he acts like a guide to Piya Roy, an Indo-American biologist who comes to Sundarbans to study the rare varieties of river dolphins in the region. Fokir's character is wonderfully written; he has the same qualities and a certain uniqueness about him which are similar to the landscape that sustains and nurtures him. Fokir knows the region the way a lover knows the body of his beloved– deeply, intimately and with an acute sense of love, concern, and ownership. He has rivers in him, the swish of a running stream, the virility of fertile landscape, and the agility of a wildcat. His body is as smooth and supple as that for a fish, the sheer force of these sensual descriptions of Fokir can easily be assigned to the landscape, at least to certain aspects of it.

Ghosh's background in history probably persuaded him to write about Sundarbans– these primordial virgin regions carrying within them treasures, but the current infatuations with (thoughtless) development is playing havoc in the area. So the human presence, apart from Fokir's, is largely intrusive and destructive. It unfolds in regional politics and, in complicated ways, is shaped by the global capital.

The hungry tide (the Sundarbans) is hungry because it is one of its kind; it is ferocious because it is just nature at its best– wholly unmediated by any external presence. On the other hand, the hungry tide is hungry in the sense of 'deficient' due to the aggressive and ever-increasing human interventions in the region. It is probably this that makes Ghosh write this book.

And he wrote it brilliantly.

Profile Image for Joy D.
1,779 reviews213 followers
March 27, 2021
Piya, an American of Bengali descent, is a young marine biologist. She travels to the Sundarbans, a mangrove-forested archipelago off the southeastern coast of India, in search of an endangered dolphin species. On the way, she meets Kanai, a translator and businessman from New Delhi. He is on his way to his aunt’s house to collect a journal bequeathed to him by his uncle.

Piya embarks on her study of dolphins but encounters difficulties with her guides. She meets Fokir, an uneducated local fisherman, skilled at reading the tides, with whom she feels a connection. She hires him to help her map the dolphins’ migrations among the islands, where Bengal tigers, crocodiles, snakes, and other wildlife reside. These islands are flooded by the tide twice daily. In the meantime, Kanai reads his uncle’s journal. He reunites with Piya in the role of translator.

Chapters from the journal are inserted periodically into the narrative. From the journal, we learn the story of the violent confrontations in Morichjhampi – a real incident that occurred in 1979 involving government forces and Bengali refugees. The journal also includes the story of Bon Bibi, the protectress of the island people.

This novel is infused with variety – cetology, the ecosystem in the Sundarbans, politics of the region, powerful storms, and local folklore. It is also a moving interpersonal story of people from extremely different backgrounds. It is beautifully written. It emphasizes the interdependence of humans and nature and highlights difficult questions that arise when they come into conflict. It is a story about adventure, identity, history, environment, and attraction set in a unique region. I found it fascinating.

“Powerful as it already was, the gale had been picking up strength all along. At a certain point its noise had reached such a volume that its very quality had undergone a change. It sounded no longer like the wind but like some other element—the usual blowing, sighing and rustling had turned into a deep, earsplitting rumble, as if the earth itself had begun to move. The air was now filled with what seemed to be a fog of flying debris—leaves, twigs, branches, dust and water. This dense concentration of flying objects further reduced the visibility in what was already a gathering darkness.”
Profile Image for Doug Bradshaw.
257 reviews219 followers
June 14, 2016
This book was written well before Sea of Poppies. It was a fairly interesting story set in an area of Eastern India in a "labyrinth of tiny islands known as the Sundarbans, where settlers live in fear of drowning tides and man-eating tigers."

It was almost more of a documentary giving interesting facts about the history of the settlers, how the government fought them using this ground, how they eked out a living there and were sometimes eaten by Tigers. Dang tigers!

The story of the American Marine biologist from Seattle there to study two rare species of Dolphins, and her relationship with two local fellows, a fisherman and a translator was a bit too tame for me. No real meat in the story.

But it was interesting and I could see Ghosh starting to develop some of the skills that lead him to write the amazing Sea of Poppies trilogy.
Profile Image for Jane.
Author 10 books137 followers
May 14, 2009
... this guy is such a terrible writer, I don't know why I bother. Full review once I finish this abominable page-turner...

OK, done: I really can't bear Gosh's style, the dialogue is completely implausible, with nearly every character speaking as though they're declaiming to the wind. He has an unnecessarily high adjective count, and he just generally annoys me. On the upside, this book does some nice stuff with structure, pulling different characters' points of view together quite well. And the last few chapters are genuinely exciting and edge-of-the-seaty. But really, this book is just an excuse for him to rant on about how it's time we put an end to the practice of putting the natural world ahead of human wellbeing (you know, the way we do that like, all the time...)
Profile Image for Mamta.
13 reviews4 followers
April 29, 2012
It was an interesting but not a phenomenal, and in some part, even a disappointing read. The characters could have been fleshed out far far more.....it was almost as if the language barrier kept even the reader from understanding Fokir to any measurable depth. The relationships between the various characters were left largely unexplored. I wish that the human interactions/histories had been dealt with the same passion as the geology of the Sunderbans. The storms that shaped the lives of the people that inhabit this book were almost dismissed by the author as inferior in their claim on his attentions in comparison to the storms and tides that shaped the landscape. I particularly enjoyed the references to Rainer Maria Rilke's poetry and the passages that took us back into Piya's past and Fokir's beliefs. My only beef is that these insights were so sparse and had to almost be scavenged out from the pages of this book. Horen, Moyna, even her son remain mysteries to the reader. Grief on Fokir's death was just not dealt with in the book. The ending was abrupt, and skimmed over any opportunity to leave the reader with an emotional response to the story.
354 reviews169 followers
January 7, 2021
A beautiful novel of place, feeling, love, and language, The Hungry Tide demands of the reader an appreciation of the feeling the story burns with. In the tide country, lives are hard, easily extinguished, and seldom valued by the nation that contains them. And yet, the people for whom its ebbs and flows are time itself, home can be nowhere else. Amitav Ghosh's characters are sometimes hard to understand, they sometimes even threaten to become caricatures, but what holds this powerful, moving story together is the underlying romance of a people being where they belong.

I think I'll have to reread this.
Profile Image for Gorab.
611 reviews99 followers
August 8, 2016
Oh my Ghosh!
What an adventurous read. I want to get a pair of binoculars and set sail to Sundarbans, which has more to offer than just its famous wild cats.
Informative with a gripping plot, across ethnically different characters, with flashbacks blending fiction and non fiction very smoothly.
This was my first book by Amitav Ghosh and am rooting for more.

P.S. : Reading Gora in parallel added to the joy of enjoying Bengal :)
Profile Image for Tanuj Solanki.
Author 4 books354 followers
May 10, 2015
Supremely disappointing, considering the start it had.

In the first few chapters Ghosh takes ample time with his two main characters. Their histories and inner lives intermingle well. The plot too advances with a decent pace. But then two things overpower his novel

(1) The desire to be inventive
(2) Sobering down to elongated, unreal conversations when not being inventive.

Ghosh's inventive side gives us a plethora of side stories, some provided as the journal of a dead man, others as mere myths and mythologies that are articulated during conversations. At most times they tie-in well with the concurrent theme of the novel, but one has to say that they tie in too well. Ghosh has attempted here what would have been called an encyclopedic novel by Orhan Pamuk, but Ghosh's pseudo po-mo diversions do not possess half the power of a Pamuk. One reason is the apparent blandness of whatever he has to say. The other is that his diversions are hesitant , almost as if they don't want to be diversions. They appear too well planned, not fragmentary-in-a-challenging way, as they do in Pamuk.

The other sad thing about the novel is its degeneration into chapters containing one-to-one conversations. There are just two many of these chapters. Each character gets to talk to the other. Sometimes they narrate stories of the kind I have mentioned before. At other times, they bore even more. One gets the irritating feeling that this could have been a super-taut novella and that it would have done better then. At other times, you find yourself bemoaning the superficiality it loads the characters with...suddenly the characters lose their inner lives and are just talking. Talking , talking, and talking.

The highlight of the book is the first part, especially the chapters devoted to Piyali's first interactions with Fokir. Ghosh is at his best here, and it is for these snippets that I am going to give him a second try.
Profile Image for Shreya Vaid.
184 reviews1 follower
September 7, 2016
Just like any other Ghosh's book, The Hungry Tide takes you to an unknown territory, The Sundarbans. For Indians, we associate Sundarbans with Tigers. But Amitav Ghosh through The Hungry Tide will make you read a totally different side of Sundarbans. A deep history of marshy swamplands, crocodiles, rebellion during Bangladesh war. The last book that I read by Amitav Ghosh was the Glass Palace, which took me to Burma, a place which was alien to me, but not anymore. And that is the beauty of Ghosh's books, you are enchanted and mesmerized whenever you read any one of his books.

The Hungry Tide follows the story of Sundarbans, an immense archipelago of islands. Some of the Islands have lived to tell the tale of history, some have been washed away by the hungry tide which comes and goes away, either creating an Island or washing away one. A place where there is no difference between fresh water and salt water, hungry crocodiles and tigers who can swim like fish, it's inhabitants believe that anyone with a pure heart who wishes to venture in this water labyrinth, will never return. A balance which is disturbed by two people who met by chance, Piyali and Kanai.

Kanai, on request of his aunt Nilima who is a social worker based out of Sundarbans, decides to travel to Lusibari via Canning to meet her. According to his aunt, his uncle Nirmal, who was a political radical who died mysteriously after a rebellion on a nearby island, has left a diary for him. After his death, Nilima found the diary in his study, addressed to Kanai and requesting the finder to pass it on to him only. The diary contains the history of the islands, including Nirmal's role in the rebellion. A text that pulls Kanai into unknown realities.

Piyali, on the other hand, is a Marine researcher who is traveling to Sundarbans to find a rare species of Dolphins, The Irrawaddy dolphin, also known as Orcaella. An unfortunate accident during her research leads her to Fokir, who is a fisherman and knows the backwaters like the back of his hand. A new kind of friendship is born between both, even when there is a language barrier. With another striking friendship she formed with Kanai at Canning station, he as their translator, Piya, and Fokir undertake a journey towards the tide country, facing hungry tides, animals thirsty for blood and history that will leave everyone in a shock. In their research journey, they find a new kind of jungle, the human jungle which they believe they can cross, but are so wrong.

The Hungry Tide is a book that will leave you mesmerized. As I shared before, Amitav Ghosh's books always take you to a new unknown place, a place which we hear from time to time but don't know the people and history related to it. The plotline of The Hungry Tide is amazing, and will keep you on your reading chair's edge. The only problem that I faced was that the book is a little slow. Too much detailing about the Islands of Sundarbans and other things will make you want to take a little break from it from time to time. If you are expecting to decipher The Hungry Tide within 100-200 pages, it won't be possible.
The characters are another story, though. Kanai, a businessman who is practical, faces issues with his practicality when he comes face to face with realities of the tide country. Piya, who was born Indian but is strictly American, find an unknown bond developing with her lost land. Nirmal, a revolutionary who lost his life, leaves such a story for Kanai that he drown in it. Characters of The Hungry Tide will leave you in awe, you will simply fall in love with them.

But if you are patient, The Hungry Tide promises you to take on a journey so magical, that you will end up asking for more. All in all, it is a book that you should definitely devour into.
Profile Image for Sumallya Mukhopadhyay.
112 reviews22 followers
May 9, 2017
The Hungry Tide, Amitav Ghosh
As always with Amitav Ghosh, his narrative technique refuses to follow a linear pattern, instead it criss-crosses across events of varying decades to foreground the concept of home and homelessness in The Hungry Tide. Probing into the politically charged massacre of Bangladeshi refugees in Marichjhapi, Ghosh investigates homelessness as a naturalized event that gripped South Asia during the years of 1940s and 1970s. He problematizes homeless all the more as he strikingly brings to notice the caste question that was intrinsically laced with the killings of Marichjhapi and forced eviction of the settlers. On the backdrop of Marichjhapi, Ghosh presents to us the intriguing characters of Nirmal and Nilima; both settled in Lusibari, an island bordering Marichjhapi. Once residents of Kolkata, Nirmal and Nilima settle at Lusibari which they call home. Nilima’s last words in the novel are a direct reference to her definition of home—home is where she can “brew a pot of good tea”. Once understands Nilima can make herself a home wherever she decides to stay. Her project of the hospital along with the charity work at Lusibari enforces this observation. She nurtures rebuilding Lusibari as a mother cares for her child. She stands in opposition to Nirmal, a gentleman revolutionary and a poet, who homelessness acts as a sort of enlightenment. As a revolutionary should, Nirmal is one with the world and his definition of home is attached to the causes with which he identifies himself. Marichjhapi is not Nirmal’s home; the struggle of the residents of Marichjhapi and their resistance in the face of Statist oppression is Nirmal’s idea of home. Home is where he can reconcile with his thoughts. The next set of characters—Kanai and Piya—point to the discourse of home and homelessness as well. Kanai lives in a translated world, away from the cosy, amicable ambience of home. His journey back to Lusibari or, if we call it his home, forces him to occupy a problematic space. He problem is highlighted as he verbally abuses Fakir in one of the journeys that he undertakes with him. Though Kanai is a man of the world, his failure to grasp the changing trajectory of his home renders him homeless which disturbs his sense and sensibility. Piya, who had no knowledge of the local language, interestingly calls Lusibari her home at the end of the novel. A cetologist who comes to Sunderbans to gather knowledge about Oracella dolphins, Piya feels at home despite her predicaments. The nuanced definition of home and homelessness overlaps each other to create, as it were, a space which is explicated by Fakir’s characterization. Fakir belongs to the waters and not to the land. He is aware of the waters of Sunderbans like no one else. His wife, Moyna, believes the river-islands to be her boundaries that she needs to shatter to help her dreams of a decent livelihood take wings. Water makes her as uncomfortable as land unmakes Fakir. But both are in married to each other. Perhaps, only at the end of the novel, when Fakir dies we understand that their relationship was not really devoid of love. Fakir articulates her name as he meets his destined end. Moyna loses her composure, that is one of her most powerful traits, breaking down to irrepressible sobs as she understands her loss.
In a way, home and homelessness have very nuanced and problemtic definitions. One can be at home but not be at ease! If one is not at ease, one cannot possibly call it home. At the same time, one can be far away from one’s home, but stays comfortable. Ghosh identifies his novel with these changing notions of home and homelessness to create a narrative that stands dazzling.
Profile Image for Ashish.
254 reviews46 followers
May 1, 2016
I wish I could give this book 3.5 stars, it would have been ideal.

Ghosh paints a mesmerising picture of the Sunderbans, a part of the country that you don't hear or read about all that often. He doesn't sugar-coat things much, hence you see it in its true light; the description of natural beauty, along with the perils and dangers. My only issue was that he sometimes overdoes the whole ''tide country'' bit, and it sometimes felt a bit forced.

The book is definitely well-written, with interesting characters, and some pretty splendid imagery, and asks some really thought-provoking questions. Where does one draw the line between conservation and development? At what point do we prioritise about the condition that people are living in over nature. Aren't the people part of nature too, and doesn't survival of the people take precedence? The book presents a quite balanced view, with arguments from either side that make you think, and realise that the answer isn't as easy and obvious as one may think.

The characters could have been a bit more fleshed out, and the book needed a few more of them to be more coherent. There were times when things seemed to happen and some situations seemed convenient in the interest of story-telling.

Overall, a good read.
Profile Image for Girish.
832 reviews202 followers
October 12, 2013
Amitav Ghosh's The Hungry Tide is an ode to the Tide Country. The prose does not unfold a story - but exists much like the background music for a scene out of a painting.

Based on a few real incidents, actual research and experiences - the book has 3 different themes. One that gives you the feel of watching a discovery channel documentary, one of reading a poet's muse and the other the tides of human emotions transcending language, faith and nature. And surprisingly in all 3 themes Ghosh prevails!

The tide country created by the author has a life of it's own. The Characters with layers are believable and more human for fiction.

There are a few loose ends and some parts that seem out of place - but then they get washed away by the tide. Not a very easy read, but then worth it.
Profile Image for Amlan Hossain.
Author 1 book43 followers
August 31, 2015
জালের মতো ছড়িয়ে ছিটিয়ে থাকা সুন্দরবনের অসংখ্য নদী। সেখানে জলে কুমীর , ডাঙ্গায় বাঘ। কখনও কখনও ইতিউতি দেখা মেলে শুশুকের দল। সেই ভয়াল সুন্দরবনে ডলফিল নিয়ে গবেষণা করতে এলেন পিয়ালি রয়। ক্যানিং নামের কাদা থিকথিকে এক শহরে দেখা অনুবাদক ও বহুভাষাবাদিক কানাইয়ের সাথে। দ্য হাংরি টাইডের শুরুটা এভাবেই।

অমিতাভ ঘোষের লেখার যে জাদু, বিপুল বিস্তারে ছড়িয়ে আস্তে আস্তে জাল গোটানো, তার ষোলআনা এই উপন্যাসে আছে। এর আগে লেখকের “ইন অ্যান অ্যান্টিক ল্যান্ড” পড়েছিলাম, সেটা অবশ্য ননফিকশন ছিল। এই বইয়ে অমিতাভ যেন ফিরে যেতে হয়েছেন শেকড়ের কাছে। কখনও কখনও বর্ণনার আধিক্যে অবশ্য উপন্যাসের গতি একটু টাল খেয়েছে, তবে সবকিছু ছাপিয়ে এই উপন্যাস যেন মনে করিয়ে দিয়েছে মরিচঝাপির সেই অগ্নিঝরা ���ময়টুকু। বাস্তুহারা মানুষকে পশ্চিমবঙ্গ সরকার কীভাবে নিশ্চিহ্ন করে দিয়েছিল, সেই বিবরণ আরও অনেক বইতে আছে। অমিতাভ ইতিহাসের পরানের গহীন থেকে তুলে আনতে চেয়েছেন প্রায় বিস্মৃতিতে চলে যাওয়া সেই কালো অধ্যায়। তাতে অনুষঙ্গ হিসেবে এসেছে পিয়ালি, কানাই, ফকির, ময়নারা। আর দুই যুগের মধ্যে সেতুবন্ধ রচনা করেছেন নির্মল নামের একজন কল্পনাবিলাসী আধবুড়ো। এমন একটা বই, সুগন্ধির মতো যেটার রেশ থেকে যায় অনেক অনেক ক্ষণ
Profile Image for Indrani Sen.
333 reviews57 followers
November 9, 2015
A superb book on Sundarban. Lovely descriptions of the land and the people. A mindblowing climax. thoroughly enjoyed this.
November 8, 2021
This is my first book by Amitav Ghosh and why didn't I read him before?

The Hungry Tide follows Piyali Roy, an Indian-American cetologist, who comes to India on the trail of the Gangetic dolphin and, more importantly, the Irrawaddy dolphin. Her search leads her to the eastern edge of the country - a group of archipelagos that go by the name of Sunderbans.

The story begins with the meeting of Piyali (Piya) and Kanai (rhymes with Hawaii) Dutt, a translator and interpreter based out of Delhi. Kanai is heading to Canning from where he will proceed to Lusibari that is the last populated area before the forests begin. He is headed to his aunt's home in the remote village.

Though both go their different ways in Canning, Piya ends up in Lusibari after a few days. In the meantime, she meets Fokir, a quiet but efficient fisherman. That they cannot speak with each other because they have no language in common does not come between them.

In due course, Piya reaches Lusibari and meets Kanai. Kanai has spent his time at Lusibari deciphering the cryptic diary entries of his somewhat eccentric uncle. Desparate for some company, Kanai volunteers to go on a dolphin-seeking journey with Piya and Fokir.

The three of them explore the delta region that can be both benevolent and tumultuous in turns. It can give as much as it can take away. In the background, we encounter the politics of the area, the fragility of humans, the resilience in the face of adversity, the fulfilled smiles, and the broken hearts of many who touch the protagonists in passing.

I have never been to the Sunderbans even though I have lived in India all my life. Of course, I have read about it in school but this book took me there. I walked among the mangroves, saw the pugmarks of the maneaters - the Royal Bengal Tiger - up close, gasped as the crocodiles swiftly and stealthily swam up to my boat, and smiled when the dolphins sounded. It was a physical experience I went through right in my living room.

People are people. They make mistakes, they take the wrong decisions, they are weak. But these attributes are what makes a person unique.

Every person in this book has his or her own story. They may think they are right, but are they really? Is practicality a good thing or is revolution the way forward? Do we need to move ahead with the times or remain steadfast in our beliefs? Amitav Ghosh explores such topics in this book.

I must make a special mention to a couple of pages of Arabic to English translation that caught my attention. There is a prayer named Bon Bibi Johurnama which means The Glory of Bon Bibi. Originally written in Arabic, it is recited in the style of a typical Hindu prayer. The author has translated it into English but by writing it in rhyming couplets. It doesn't come to attention immediately but when I was reading the book, I realized it wasn't regular text. I went back to the start to read the section again and there it was. Beautifully executed.

What more can I say about a book that has captured my imagination this way?

5 stars.
Profile Image for Palmyrah.
256 reviews57 followers
November 28, 2012
I'm sorry to say I could not finish this. I got about a third of the way through. I greatly enjoyed The Calcutta Chromosome and Sea of Poppies and have liked other books by this author, more or less, but this was unbearable. The setting is squalid and hellish, an island half-drowned in the mud of the Ganges delta. The characters did not interest me, and a developing romance between an Indian-American marine biologist and a Bengali fisherman seemed preposterously unlikely, although in fairness I didn't read far enough to see whether they actually got together. The author keeps harping on Bengali grievances, which are now becoming something of a pedal point in all his writing; frankly, I think it's time he took his foot off that particular pedal.

Oh, it has river-dolphins in it. I've just finished editing a book on Indian Ocean cetaceans, which means I'm in the throes of a fading but still-strong professional fascination with whales and dolphins. For all that, however, Ghosh still managed to bore me with his.
Profile Image for Ann-Marie "Cookie M.".
1,076 reviews120 followers
February 18, 2020
I continue on my literary exploration of the Sundarbans, between India and Bangladesh. one of the most mysterious places on earth, where tigers struggle against extinction, and a fragile, beautiful environment is disappearing day by day.
"The Hungry Tide" by Amitav Ghosh was neither my favorite book by Mr. Ghosh, not my favorite about the great tidal wonderland I love but will never visit but in books and films.
I really didn't connect with any of the characters. They all had a lack of warmth to them. It may have been intentional. I found it off putting.
The book was so much a slog for me that when the climax occurred I felt no ride in heartbeat, no quickened breath, just a feeling of, "Oh, something is happening at last."
I was so bored I wished a tiger would eat someone.
Profile Image for Sreelekha.
42 reviews82 followers
March 1, 2012
Set amidst the lush foliage of mangrove forests, The Hungry Tide tells us about the history and lives of people who inhabit the numerous islands of Sunderbans in the Bay of Bengal, the river dolphins, the man eater tigers of the tide country, the sea and the legends that float in these waters and forests. It reminds us of the fragility of human life and the helplessness that comes with it.

Story revolves around American born Bengali descent, Piyali Roy a.ka. Piya, a cetologist who comes to India to study the river dolphins; Foker a reticent illiterate boatman with impeccable knowledge of the tide country; Kanai the middle aged translator who thinks of himself as an urban Casanova;Nilima or Maashima Kanai’s aunt, a matriarch with a keen eye for business who single handedly set up a hospital in the fictious island of Lusibari and runs it successfully; and Nirmal ,Kanai’s late uncle with flawless Communist idealogies.

Ghosh spins a tale whose fabric is dyed with realities of the lives of the islanders, yellowed by the passage of time and embroidered by the tales of Bon Bibi and Shah Jongli.He relates to us the massacre of Morichjhanpi, which otherwise is a much suppressed black episode of Indian history, through the diary of Nirmal.The lives of the then dwellers of Morichjhanpi,the event that lead to the massacre and the struggle of the dwellers as they fight for their right-the right to stay alive are vividly

Ghosh boldly questions the atrocities dealt out on the poor in the name of protecting nature. One of the character voices out,

“Saar,” she said, wiping her face, “the worst part was not the hunger or the thirst. It was to sit here, helpless, and listen to the policemen making their announcements, hearing them say that our lives, our existence, were worth less than dirt or dust. ‘This island has to be saved for its trees, it has to be saved for its animals, it is a part of a reserve forest, it belongs to a project to save tigers, which is paid for by people from all around the world.’ Every day, sitting here with hunger gnawing at our bellies, we would listen to these words over and over again. Who are these people, I wondered, who love animals so much that they are willing to kill us for them? Do they know what is being done in their name? Where do they live, these people? Do they have children, do they have mothers, fathers? As I thought of these things, it seemed to me that this whole world had become a place of animals, and our fault, our crime, was that we were just human beings, trying to live as human beings always have, from the water and the soil. No one could think this a crime unless they have forgotten that this is how humans have always lived — by fishing, by clearing land and by planting the soil.”

When the books end, in most cases, the characters end with it. But with “The Hungry Tide”, the characters linger around the corners of your heart posing profound questions on human rights, our role as protectors of nature and the inherent frailty of human nature.
Profile Image for Pooja  Jha.
37 reviews26 followers
October 19, 2020
"...........life is lived in transformation"


This was an absolutely incredible read. It seems half of me would now always dwell in the forests of Sundarbans along with the mangroves, constantly changing tidal ebbs and with the dolphins...The delicacy and the proficiency with which Amitabh Ghosh has portrayed not only the beauty and virtuousness of the nature but also its enormity is marvelous and has surely been able to leave an everlasting impact on me.....

The Sundarbans which means 'beautiful forest ' also known as 'tidal country' where transformation is the rule of nature as well as the lives of people where-

'There are no borders here to divide fresh water from salt, river from sea. The tides reach as far as two hundred miles inland and every day thousands of acres of forest disappear underwater, only to reemerge hours later. The currents are so powerful as to reshape the islands almost daily — some days the water tears away entire promontories and peninsulas; at other times it throws up new shelves and sandbanks where there were none before."

We travel into this beautiful inland of the Sundarbans mainly with Piya, who is a cetologist, and is in Sundarbans realm for her research; then we meet Kanai who is just on a visit to Lusibari and finally we meet Fokir in whose soul and heart resides the every creeks and channels of the river and the deltas of the island.. And through these characters we come across the constantly changing fate of the island and its people.....

"What was happening here, I realized, was that the wheel of time was spinning too fast to be seen. In other places it took decades, even centuries, for a river to change course; it took an epoch for an island to appear. But here in the tide country, transformation is the rule of life: rivers stray from week to week, and islands are made and unmade in days. In other places forests take centuries, even millennia, to regenerate; but mangroves can recolonize a denuded island in ten to fifteen years. Could it be that the very rhythms of the earth were quickened here so that they unfolded at an accelerated pace?"

The artistry with which Amitabh Ghosh has interweaved the lives of his fictitious character with the grace and enormity of the island is spectacular.. And finally I can't stop myself from adoring the beauty of 'Sundarban deltas' ......

Profile Image for Animesh.
18 reviews15 followers
March 27, 2010
Amitav Ghosh, the author of The Circle of Reason and The Shadow Lines, weaves a complex fabric with some of the fundamentals of the deepest corners of our mind: the animistic instinct, the urge to discover, and the magnetism of finding one's roots. All this woven against a primitive landscape of water and silt, time set against tidal surges and mangrove forest, a flat land low against a stormy sky in the Bengal delta, a place that Ghosh brings alive with the apparent deftness of long familiarity. The plot is brilliant--a young woman smitten with the bug of a naturalist's passion is looking for the elusive fresh water porpoise in the riverine Sunderbans, an uneducated fisherman youth, his youthful wife and the locals with convoluted past in the backdrop of 1970s Bengal, create a drama that is wholly compelling yet mysteriously magical. Ghosh draws with broad swaths of a charcoal, as it were, constructing a dark world of primitive elements that probe deeply into our human self with the ease and flourish of a master craftsman. Magic is in the air and water, in the sky and in dolphin's breath. The story attains a crescendo in the form of a huge storm that changes not merely the landscape. A book written with deft craftsmanship and intimate knowledge. Read it.
Profile Image for Ambar.
121 reviews14 followers
February 15, 2017
Credit where it's due, Amitav Ghosh has a gift for description and imagery. The mangrove forests of the Sundarbans are portrayed with great clarity and all their sinister charm intact. The creatures of the Sundarbans, in particular the dolphin and the tiger which feature prominently, also make for a captivating read, in particular the tiger (though it is less central to the plot), which manages to evoke a primeval fear of the creature, that goes back to the very roots of humanity, when we were still the hunted as opposed to the hunters. But these are all secondary to the plot and story, which are both quite disappointing. Ghosh's feeble attempts at romantic undertones are amateurish and contrived, his characters aren't compelling (and with the exception of maybe Fokir, quite boring), his tale of Morichjhapi and the Bengal refugee crisis starts off on a promising note before faltering, and all in all, The Hungry Tide is just quite disappointing.
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