The Tide of Emotion
The Hungry Tide
Amitav Ghosh
Published by HarperCollins
Review by W. R. Greer

The Ganges River flows from the Himalayan Mountains across northern India, emptying into the Bay of Bengal. The river delta creates a vast archipelago of islands, the Sundarbans, where mangrove jungles grow quickly on land not reclaimed by the tide. The tidal surge from the sea can cover three hundred kilometers, constantly reshaping or devouring islands, with just the tops of the jungles often visible at high tide. This is the tide country, home to the Bengal tiger, huge crocodiles, sharks, snakes, impenetrable forests, and a few people trying to scratch out a living. At the beginning of the 20th century, Sir Daniel Hamilton decided to create a utopian society there, offering free land to those willing to work as long as they accepted the others as equals, regardless of caste or ethnicity. It's a difficult life that leaves most women widowed at a young age and land barely farmable if the saltwater of the hungry tide can be kept from flooding their fields.
It's in this tide country, the Sundarbans, where Amitav Ghosh sets his engaging novel, The Hungry Tide. The book is told from the perspective of its two main characters, Kanai Dutt, a Delhi businessman, and Piya Roy, an American scientist who has come to study the rare Irrawaddy dolphin which lives in the rivers of the tide country. Kanai, educated as translator and owner of a successful translation business, comes to the island of Lusibari to visit his aunt, Nilima. Kanai is a proud and arrogant and not above using his status to get his own way. He tries to be always in control of the relationships of his life. Nilima describes him as "one of those men who likes to think of himself as being irresistible to the other sex. Unfortunately, the world doesn't lack for women who're foolish enough to confirm such a man's opinion of himself, and Kanai seems always to be looking for them."
Kanai had been to...