Book Review

The Hungry Tide

 Amitav Ghosh

Amitav Ghosh’s “The Hungry Tide” takes us into this mesh of vegetation, animal life, and the ever-present river with Kanal, who has taken leave from a translating job in New Delhi. He meets Piya, an expatriate Indian scientist from the US who believes there is an unusual species of dolphin in the murky waters of the Sundarbans.

In this novel, Ghosh weaves a compelling story by holding a narrative in perfect suspension between the worlds of language and silence. “The Hungry Tide” is like a Conradian expedition and an ideological collision between western assumptions and Indian reality.  The pattern of the novel can occasionally seem erratic, but vigilance is rewarded.

The characters are finely drawn and Ghosh’s innate ability to evoke strange places remains undiminished in this novel too. It reads as a metaphor for the lost ideals that each character in the novel reaches out for but never accomplishes.

The book is much more than a 400-page river trip in search of an obscure marine mammal – it is a search for India’s modern identity.