Sunday, 13 March 2011

Tiger Hills

I picked up Tiger Hills because it had an attractive cover, and bought it because it had an interesting blurb, was recommended by the TV Book Club and was only £4 from the bookpeople stall at work. Twenty pages in, I thought - ugh, is this trying to be a new Suitable Boy? 

100 pages in and I was well and truly hooked - and it kept me gripped to the end. It's an Indian story of a little girl and boy who grow up together, the terrible events of their teens which wrecks their relationship for decades, and the way it reverberates through the next generation(s). Above all its a story about favourites (and presumed favourites), and about mothers.

Devi and Devanna are the girl and boy whose lives form the heart of the book. It's a classic love triangle - he loves her, she loves someone else (and is barely aware of Devanna's feelings). Through their early childhood she defends and protects him, but at school he's an outstanding student - doing well enough to leave the village for medical school. And then things go wrong. I won't say more about the story - though I found some scenes harrowing and others really moving. A lot of the story is really sad - but the ending will lift your heart again.

I liked the sympathy and understanding that the author shows for every character, even when they are obviously being self-centred, wrong-headed or naive. I really liked the way that we could see characters' feelings grow, change, become dormant or rise to the surface of their consciousness and as they grow up, and then grow old. I loved the sense of immersion in Indian countryside and culture - except for a slightly clunky bit of exposition using Gundert the missionary as a tool to introduce colloquial names for mothers, fathers etc - I was sucked straight into a credible and deeply sensual world, millions of miles away from mine.

And I really liked the different women and the difference in outlook between women/mothers of different classes and different generations. No more analysis without spoilers - so I'll stay quiet. 

There aren't many reviews posted on Librarything/findable by Google - I wonder whether books need to be around for longer? Or be (even) more high profile? Or what?

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