This was my first read of 2012 and what a fabulous start to the year, thanks to my sister who passed this on to me, thinking I might enjoy it, while we were staying with her in Wales. Well I most certainly did getting thoroughly immersed in this wonderful story set in Coorg in Southern India and spanning the period from 1878 to 1936.
The narrative begins with the birth of the protagonist of the novel Devi and follows the life story of her and her childhood friend Devanna. I was transported by the authors descriptive writing to the region and an era when India was undergoing many changes in society. Devi is a beautiful child and as the first girl born into her family for many years is the subject of much adoration. Strong willed and lively, she is determined as she grows up, to live life on her terms no matter what. It is no surprise therefore that this has considerable consequences for those around her and for future generations. There is a lot of suffering and angst in this novel and one might not always like the way the characters behave, however it felt realistic to me as they eventually learnt to cope with their destinies.
A truly captivating novel about the choices we make in the name of love, family, love and our country. Not only does Tiger Hills provide a great plot, a beautifully written family saga set in a beautiful location but it also combines Indian history, traditions and folklore flawlessly into the story.
A brilliant debut novel from Sarita Mandanna, I will certainly be looking out for any future ones. If this is the sort of story with a historical background that you normally read, then I cannot see how you can fail to not enjoy this.
Sarita Mandanna belongs to the stunning landscapes of Coorg, the setting of Tiger Hills. Her family history extends for centuries through these hills, famous for their coffee plantations and often described as the 'Scotland of India'. She has a PGDM from the Indian Institute of Management, an MBA from the Wharton Business School, and was most recently a private equity investor in New York City. Tiger Hills is her debut novel. It is being translated into 15 languages around the world.,
Including also for you this interesting piece, as in her own words Sarita Mandanna tells us WHY SHE WROTE TIGER HILLS:
It was ancient custom in Coorg to bury the umbilical cord of a newborn. Past the jungle undergrowth, tucked among root and shale, deep into the earth. It served as a talisman, it was believed, a beacon showing the way home. So that no matter how far one went, no matter the distance nor the passage of time, ever this electric longitude, pointed towards home.
Perhaps inevitably then, when I began to write Tiger Hills, Coorg was the setting that naturally unfurled. My words, echoing my grandfather's as he tells us stories around an oil lamp. The great-grandmother, widowed young, who walked her fields alone, a dagger tucked into her blouse. These stories and others, my roots, sunk for generations into these hills.
While Coorg forms the highly personalized canvas of Tiger Hills, I wanted to write a story almost classical in structure - a large narrative, whose characters struggle with universal themes. What do we do when thrust into circumstances not of our choosing? Tiger Hills explores the nexus between fortitude and acceptance, the choices we make in the aftermath of happenstance and the far-reaching impact they can carry. Determined not to be victimized, Devi fights for happiness the best she can. She isn't always easy to like and makes some decisions that are far from right. And yet, who was truly the victim and who the aggressor?
As she forges a life for herself within the parameters decided for her, Devi hardens. To such an extent however, that she becomes wedded to a version of happiness too rooted in memory to ever become real. When is it best to let go, to seek happiness along new roads, even those previously discounted?
Devi's story lies at the core of Tiger Hills, but it is the other stories, unvoiced, like a dried flower lying pressed within the pages of a book, that form its undercurrent. A missionary, searching for something he cannot express; an orphan, single minded in his devotion; a boy, marked by both the mother who leaves him to the care of another as well as the legend of a father barely remembered. Different interpretations of love - obsessive, possessive, filial; the ways we wield them to undo one another, the suffering we invite upon those we hold dearest.
Finally, redemption. Tiger Hills is an exploration of our all too human need to come full circle, for reconciliation; and the idea that often, it lies well within our grasp.
In the video you can hear Sarita reading from the beginning of Tiger Hills. A very interesting interview.
The Beauty of Coorg Nature
Information and photos used in this post are with thanks to the following websites.