14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 14 August 2010
Tiger Hills is a sweeping multi-generational epic narrative spanning the 19th and 20th centuries and takes us through the lives of the three main protagonists Devi, Devanna and Machu, with an extensive supporting cast each a minor character in their own right; my personal favorite is Tayi.
The evocative imagery of the opening chapter transported me to the lush landscape of Coorg in southern India, where I stayed through the end of the novel and lingered long after. The plot is well paced, and the richly drawn characters gradually reveal themselves over the course of the novel. Although the story is set in a particular time and place, the themes of rootedness, love, loss, choices and their consequences that we encounter in the book are universal in scope.
This is an excellent book, exceptionally well written with a tight narrative structure and evocative fluid prose. Fans of historical fiction will fully recognize the time and effort invested by the author on extensive research for the period setting of the novel.
A must read for anyone who appreciates great prose and loves a well told story.
26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
This book immediately grabs your attention with it's descriptions of landscape and people, with prose of such elegant literary quality that enhances the story and makes the book such a pleassure to read. A veritable feast for the senses.
A well-paced plot brings in the well written cast, who gently reveal their characters as the story unfolds. The story explores the rich themes of love and loss. Wonderful evocation of the main family and its relationship with the land, makes this book a delight to read. We learn much of the history and culture without having it thrust upon us.
There is great empathy with the women's roles and the forces that constrain their lives, and the consequences of a strong-willed woman trying to break away from the restraints of her society.
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
From the very outset, the book draws you into the magical, mysterious Coorg region in India. The touch of the exotic permeates the entire narrative, but does become a little tiresome when it hinders the flow of the text.
Mandanna's greatest success with the novel is the way she evokes the landscape, culture, characters and general atmosphere surrounding her story. Indeed, through her skill for writing, she introduces a Western readership to an otherwise undiscovered part of India. Following a young Indian girl, Devi, from her youth into old age, the narrative throws up the classic themes of life, love and loss. However, deveiled of the Eastern mystery, the novel is not overly different from many such book gracing the shelves of book shops.
When it comes down to it, the story in itself isn't overly interesting and is even implausible in places. However, the wider picture, such as the exotic location, cultural touches and historical references to colonisation bind together to form a spellbinding read.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Admittedly, I came to TIGER HILLS because of the TV Bookclub. If it had not been for that, I am not sure that I would have chosen it myself. However, I was pleasantly surprised. TIGER HILLS is a sweeping saga which follows the lives of Devi and Devanna - two children who, once they become friends, become almost inseparable. However, one night when Devi is still only young, she meets the Tiger Killer, Machu, and makes a decision which ultimately has consequences for many years to come.
The theme of consequences, of how actions by one person often has consequences for not just that person but also for others in their lives, is a recurring one throughout the book. Love, sacrifice and grief are others - the sacrifices that we make for those we love and the sacrifices which may be forced upon us.
What I really loved about TIGER HILLS was the way in which Mandanna brought the land alive through her prose. She really did manage to transport me along, making me smell the smells, hear the wind and see the colours. Being a lover of nature, Devanna's passion for botany really came to life through the pages for me, and I truly enjoyed these passages of the novel.
So, why only four stars? Well, first of all, I cannot truly say that I liked Devi. I found her selfish - although I appreciate that Mandanna wanted to write her as a strong female, I felt that this strength often veered off towards selfishness too often. Secondly, the front of the book mentions that the land is in turmoil - this, I did not really get from the book. Yes, there are sections which talk about Manchu being in the army, but they make up a small fraction of the overall plot. Finally, as the book neared the end of the book, some of its hold lessened on me.
Overall, I really enjoyed this novel, and I rarely read books which are sagas. After this, I am looking forward to seeing what Mandanna has in store for us next.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 1 January 2011
I have just finished this book and thought it was very good. It is not what I expected from reading the blurb on the back but offered a number of surprises taking the story away from the formulaic to something I was gripped to keep reading till the end. The 2 main characters are both likeable yet at times with both of them you are annoyed at them for their actions. Their relationships with parents and children are complex and the autor does a very good job of evoking the sights and smells of the plantation. My only concern was I felt it was a bit rushed towards the end with a lot happening in a few pages but despite that would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a good family saga to keep them interested.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Having read the rave reviews on Amazon, I eagerly awaited delivery of this book. Tiger Hills is a family saga based in the Southern Indian town of Coorg. The relationship between the families can be a little difficult to grasp but once you know who is who, the story flows and is highly engaging.
The central characters are Devi and Devanna, a boy and girl who are inseperable as children and whose lives remain entwined thanks to fate. I really don't want to spoil the book for anyone as something tragic happens which effects these two characters greatly and the rest of their loved ones. I did not predict this tragedy and was deeply shocked and moved when I read it. I don't want to give a rubbish vague review but I think if I had known what was coming, I wouldn't have enjoyed the book as much!
There are parts of the novel that I found a bit heavy going, hence giving it four stars instead of five, however, that said, this is an emotional read. I felt the pain of the characters and the despair at times as you are sharing the events with them. I've had to give it a couple of days before starting a new book as this story has stayed with me and I will definitely read it again at some point.
Suggested further reading at the end of the book is Wuthering Heights; whilst reading, it did remind me of some of the classics with it's themes of loss and betrayal, pastoral descriptions and general tone, so if you're a Classics fan, I'd recommend it.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
I started this book with high hopes, as I love books set in India. The confusing start should probably have been a warning, but it was a book group read so I persevered.
I find that I agree with one of our members, who suggested that there was too much going on for a single book and that it should have been a set of three books, to allow for more detail about the customs and culture.
There are three separate sections, dealing with the three main characters in Devi's life as she grows and ages through the years. Devanna was her childhood friend, an extremely intelligent boy who trains to become the first home-bred doctor in the state of Coorg. Then there is Machu, a strong, handsome youth to whom she is instantly drawn. Machu is Devanna's cousin. Finally we meet Appu, Machu's son, who looks so much like his father but is very different in character.
Spanning from 1878 to 1936, there are numerous births and deaths within the families, and plenty of action, but I got bored, especially when the book started to concentrate on war half way through.
There is one episode, about 25% through, that is so violent and distateful, that I nearly abandoned the book. I can't say what it is for fear of spoilers, but in years to come, when I think of this book, it will be this horrible scene that sticks in my mind. I don't even think it was an essential part of the narrative. My rating dropped by one whole star for this alone.
Our book group was agreed on 3 1/2 stars, but Amazon will not allow split ratings. I certainly wouldn't rate it a 4, in spite of other reviewers' enthusiasm, so 3 stars from me.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 17 January 2011
Tiger Hills is a story of family, and history, that is written in a lovely, easy manner so that the words just trip along. It is a story of family, love, history, tradition all set against an interesting period of history and the changes that happened within it.
The books is an easy read, and once I got past the first quarter of the book I really got into the stories and the characters.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 7 June 2010
The very first sentence draws you into a shimmering jewel of a landscape that is Coorg and its inhabitants.
The quality of prose is such that it stands up as a literary work in its own right , capable of transcending being merely `eastern fiction'.
The plot development is well paced and allows the multifaceted characters to gradually reveal themselves in all their rich humanity. The storytelling immerses the reader into universal issues of love, consequence and sacrifice. Particularly compelling are the astutely well observed characterizations of the main protagonists and the bonds between family and land. All of this reveals a story that has unfolded from rich first hand experience of the land and its culture.
What shines through is the author's empathic knowledge of the roles that women are sometimes forced to inhabit, the consequences of trying to break free of social shackles and what it means to be a feisty, spirited female living her truth far ahead of her time.
I'm aware I'm in the minority in not liking this book, but felt I should still give an honest review. In order to explain why I didn't like it there may be the odd spoiler, so don't read on if you're a reader who doesn't like to know anything about a book's plot.
Mandanna's 'blockbuster' of a novel is set in Coorg, Southern India. Devi, the most beautiful and spirited girl in her village (aka a boy-crazy, wilful spoilt brat) grows up in this beautiful landscape alongside Devanna, a motherless boy (his mother commits suicide after his birth) raised by kindly relatives. For years, they are inseparable. Then, the eight-year-old Devi attends a 'Tiger Wedding' (celebration in praise of a hunter who's killed a tiger) and falls wildly in love with Machu, the Tiger-Killer, who is strong, manly, noble and all the things a Romantic Hero should be. For years, Devi waits to declare her feelings, turning down other marriage proposals. When at last she meets Machu again, she learns that he too loves her (love at first sight, of course) but that he's taken a vow of celibacy for 12 years, as thanks to his god for enabling him to kill a tiger. (How likely such a vow would be I've no idea, but 12 years seems a mighty long time!). Devi is prepared to wait, even though Machu's vow means that the lovers can't even say why. Meanwhile Devanna has loved Devi for years, but has said nothing because - with the encouragement of the German priest at the mission (a Catholic priest, I think, but Mandanna is a bit hazy about this) - he has decided to train as a doctor, and feels he can say nothing until he's qualified. (Why Devi, who seems a compulsive blabbermouth, hasn't told him that she loves Machu is a mystery.) Unfortunately, Devanna suffers horrific bullying at college in Bangalore - when this stretches to animal brutality (animal lovers, please avoid this chapter, I was nearly sick!) he returns to Coorg to plead with Devi to marry him. She of course refuses, and Devanna reacts in a way that I thought was completely uncharacteristic, over-the-top unpleasant, and (bearing in mind the fact that Devi was a strong girl, and Devanna weakened by the attacks of the bully) unlikely. And of course, Devanna's actions cause Disaster, beginning with the fact that Devi's marriage to Machu is prevented, and ending with two boys reared as brothers (though they have no blood connection) growing up on the lovely coffee plantation of Tiger Hills, one doted on and adored, the other (ironically the one who loves the land best) scorned by his mother. Is there no end to the tragedy?
I had several problems with this book. The first was the fact that characters tended to be either extremely unpleasant, or very one-dimensional. Spoilt playboy Appu, for example, was so loathsome that it was a mystery that so many people adored him. Devi was clearly meant to be the heroine, and a strong woman. Mandanna's description of her as a girl who refuses to be a victim leads one to expect a strong, feminist heroine, with lots of independent interests, who perhaps hopes for an independent career, and a life focussed on other concerns apart from men. Instead, Devi comes across in the early chapters as a spoilt, boy-crazy little madam, so self-involved that she doesn't even notice Devanna is unhappy, and with few thoughts beyond her infatuation with Machu and her own beauty. After her great disappointment she evolves into a bitter, selfish woman who appears to have no good characteristics at all. Maybe what happened to her explains some of this, but not her pathological cruelty to Nanju, her decision to take a child away from its widowed mother and bar contact, and her endless moaning. Refusing to become a victim doesn't necessarily mean you become a monster, but that seemed to be the case with Devi. Machu was a 'He-Man' stereotype of the brave warrior (and as a passionate animal-lover, I don't see anything so great in killing tigers; maybe the whole drama could be seen as divine vengeance for Machu killing one?!), with no really interesting characteristics. I also couldn't believe he wouldn't have coaxed Devi's secret out of her in time. Nanju was more interesting, and Mandanna did a great job of conveying his pain and frustration, but too often he became merely an excuse for her to show Devi's cruelty, and a 'punchbag' for the other characters. The most interesting characters to me were really the priest and Devanna, but I felt that Mandanna simplified the German priest's feelings towards Devanna, and took a distasteful pleasure in making him die as slowly and painfully as possible, while Devanna, though possibly the most complex character in the book, didn't seem completely plausible as a character after the tragic incident involving him. He too suffered so many misfortunes that the story began to seem horribly over the top (particularly the scene where he just missed killing himself and then had a stroke).
The other problem for me was the plot. Although Mandanna has lots of good ideas, some of the plot twists seemed unlikely. If the priests were aware that there was a violent bully at the medical college, and Devanna kept turning up with bruises, would they really have done nothing, and thought it was just down to 'ragging'? Wouldn't Devanna have tried harder to see the priest in his dying agony? Could a woman really take a child from his mother just like that, just because the mother was a widow? Wouldn't the family have prevented it? Would Machu really have gone 12 years without a woman? Wouldn't there have been huge pressure on him to marry and have children, as he wasn't a priest or anything like that? The section set in Weimar Germany simply seemed strange (just an excuse to get a mention of the Nazis in) - and the family were clearly crazy to send Appu over there, as he was such a loose cannon. It was also a weird interjection of world politics into a novel where politics played a remarkably small role. And I felt the ending just ran out of steam, trailing off into some vague ideas about forgiveness, and an inconclusive final scene about the two brothers. I found it hard, apart from the general idea that 'one must forgive' to work out what Mandanna's point was.
Nevertheless, I have to say that this book is considerably better than quite a lot of 'Indian blockbusters' that I've read (such as Sharon Maas's 'Of Marriageable Age' or Alison McQueen's two novels) and this is down the the quality of Mandanna's descriptive writing. She writes with such love and beauty of the landscape of Coorg, of the wildlife, and of Indian traditions such as the 'Tiger Wedding' that, however much the book irritated me, there were passages where I was spellbound. And, until the final section, the plot did have plenty of energy. All in all I felt this was the work of a gifted writer, even if I felt the plot and characterisation didn't work, and there was too much melodrama.
Three and a half stars