Paperback: 624 pages
Publisher: Orion Publishing Group, (January 2011)
Read ARC copy from Amazon Vine.
Ever since I read the stunning novel The Toss of a Lemon, I have actively sought out stories that take place anywhere in India. I have wanted to immerse myself as much as possible in the varied, rich cultures of that lovely country. So, naturally, when I saw Tiger Hills offered as an ARC, I snatched it up.
Tiger Hills takes place during British Colonial rule in the Coorg district (now Kodagu in Karnataka State) in southern India. It follows the lives of Devi and Devanna, and later Muthi, and their relationships with each other.
Devi, the much beloved first female child of several generations, is a headstrong girl from the beginning, wrapping her family around her finger and well aware of that power. She befriends the younger Deanna, and after he is orphaned he comes to live in her home. They grow up as siblings and the best of friends, but Devanna always expects that someday they will marry.
When a ten year old Devi sees Muthi at a "tiger wedding", she becomes immediately smitten with the 21 year old hunter and declares that she will marry him and only him. Her determination is not lost as the years pass, and leads to many complications and sorrows in the lives of all three.
Mandanna uses wonderful descriptive phrases to paint a sensory experience of the Coorg district. The colors and smells and sounds are vivid and, Mandanna's skill in filling the reader's senses is the strongest point of the novel.
The plot begins very slow, and when it does pick up it is to spiral the characters toward unpleasant events or unfortunate choices, none of which come as a surprise to the reader. Granted, a novel does not have to have a happy or pleasing plot to be an excellent novel, if it is well written--take Nabokov's Lolita, for example, which is one of the finest novels ever written. The prose of Tiger Hills , though, is not very striking (with the exception of the location descriptions), and I had to make myself continue to read. When Mandanna's plot planning and general writing match her descriptive ability, she will produce exceptional novels.
Note: This is my opinion; on Amazon, 58% of the reviews were 5 stars.