The Hungry Tide by Amitav Ghosh

feature image for the book review of hungry tide by amitav ghosh

The Hungry Tide by Amitav Ghosh is a treat for someone who loves history and literature. The Hungry Tide travels in the past and brings you back to the present smoothly, with words that leave you wanting for more.

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Co-existence between Nature and Humans

TThe Hungry Tide by Amitav Ghosh is set in the Sundarbans and it is a perfect setting for nature, myths, legends and people to take centre stage. The imagery, description of wildlife, the legends by the natives, and the landscape are brought alive, and the reader is transported into its primal charm. The symbiotic relationship between animals and humans is elaborately touched upon either through the character of Fokir – a fisherman and through Piya- a marine biologist, both of whom are dependent on nature for their livelihood.

Past and Present, Myths and Legends

The depiction of the past and the present within this setting is a highlight as it lets you see the changes that have taken place. The myth of ‘Bon bibi’ – the goddess who protects the Tide country through the ages. The characters may have changed or evolved but the existing reality is the same. The setting is the same which brings them closer to each other and leads to similar experiences.

Characters in The Hungry Tide by Amitav Ghosh

The central characters are Piyali Roy, Kanai Dutt, Fokir, Moyna and Nilima, Nirmal,Kusum, Horen who are completely different humans brought together by fate in the Tide country. Each character is so well- sketched out to make you feel that you personally know them.

Piyali Roy or Piya is the one who offers an outsider’s view into the tide country trying to comprehend it all. It is a similar case with Kanai Dutt who has come from Delhi but he has a past experience of visiting the Sundarbans as a child, where his aunt and uncle reside. And then there are other characters who are residents of the Tide country and share a different relation with it. Each character, and their unique perspective, makes reading The Hungry Tide by Amitav Ghosh a rich, rounded-experience.

The Complexities of Human Emotions

One thing that deserves a special mention is how the complexity of human emotions has been dealt with, especially with regard to Nirmal, Kusum, and Horen and then reflected again in the present through Piya, Kanai and Fokir. Fokir is a simple fisherman with whom Piya is able to connect despite the language barriers, due to their shared passion for marine life. His wife Moyna is a simple woman working at a hospital and Kanai feels she deserves better than Fokir. This is reminiscent of a similar situation in the past which unfolds when Kanai tries to read his uncle Nirmal’s diary. Nirmal who had been a school teacher for a long time, after his retirement decides to support political and social causes leading to his working with Kusum. There is also a distance between Nirmal and his wife Nilima who feels disconnected to him as time passes. The incident of Morichjhapi mentioned in the novel is a true one. Kanai travels to the past of the Tide country through his uncle’s eyes. The subtelties and nuances of the characters and their relationships, truly touch the reader’s nerve.


Amitav Ghosh is a great storyteller. The Hungry Tide is a beautiful collage of words and a whirlwind of emotions. The vivid description is going to urge you to visit Sundarbans.

Best Quotes from The Hungry Tide by Amitav Ghosh

“There is nothing I can do to stop what lies ahead. But I was once a writer; perhaps I can make sure at least that what happened here leaves some trace, some hold upon the memory of the world. The thought of this, along with the fear that preceded it, has made it possible for me to do what I have not been able to do for the last thirty years—to put my pen to paper again.”

Recommended for: 18+, although everyone can read it but it is advisable to understand the depth of the words.

Final Verdict – 4.5/5

Our Rating System

* – Don’t bother.
** – Borrow it if you must, use it as a travel companion.  
***– Make a purchase. Maybe an online purchase, or a kindle purchase. But buy it, encourage it.
**** – Go to a bookstore and buy it. Pay those extra bucks.
*****–Buy a hardback and show it off in your bookshelf! And then wait for a signed anniversary edition and buy that too.

Nisha Syed is a Bibliophile, amateur writer and a History enthusiast. In her spare time, you will find her reading a book, penning down her thoughts or on a solitary exploring mission.


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