- Paperback: 624 pages
- Publisher: W&N (6 Jan. 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0753827794
- ISBN-13: 978-0753827796
- Product Dimensions: 13 x 3.7 x 20 cm
- Average Customer Review: 34 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 454,560 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Tiger Hills: For fans of Elena Ferrante, a sweeping saga about family and fortune Paperback – 6 Jan 2011
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Lavish...Sarita Mandanna's fusion of history and romance makes for an aromatic blend. (Boyd Tonkin INDEPENDENT)
'An epic and extraordinary debut from an astonishing talent.' (Caroline Jowett DAILY EXPRESS)
Tragic in parts but ultimately a beautifully written saga, this is the emergence of a major new talent (Virgina Blackburn SUNDAY EXPRESS)
An epic love story from start to finish (BIG ISSUE IN THE NORTH)
Mandanna fuses history and romance to tell a vivid story, painting pictures that reverberate in the mind. (OXFORD TIMES)
Sweet novel about a secret love. (HEAT MAGAZINE)
More than alove story, Tiger Hills explores the hazardous side of passion and the shackling grip of memory once love has been thwarted. (INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE / NEW YORK TIMES)
An epic, exotic love story...It is a blockbuster debut from Sarita Mandanna that will be in many beach bags this summer. (SANDWELL CHRONICLE)
THE THORN BIRDS meets GONE WITH THE WIND in this sweeping of a forbidden love that will last for generations.See all Product description
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Top customer reviews
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
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.
The author brings to life all the colours and atmosphere of the Coorg region with her formidable use of description. Her characterisation and dialogue really brings the characters to life so that the reader cannot help but be affected by their hopes and dreams.
I bought the paperback and read it again and surprisingly more can be discovered from a second reading.
Sarita Mandanna grips your imagination from the very first page and does not let go until the last, even then you are left hoping that there will be a sequel.
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