I am thrilled to have discovered so many wonderful South Asian writers while living here. One of my favorites is Amitav Ghosh. He is utterly transporting in his descriptions and beautiful prose. I just finished The Hungry Tide and loved it.
In brief, The Hungry Tide is a tale set in the Sunderbans, an archipelago of swampy islands off the coast of Bengal known for being an unforgiving environment and home of the Bengal Tiger. A young Indian-American scientist (who only speaks English but is of Bengali descent) travels to the Sundarbans to research Irrawaddy Dolphins and is aided by an illiterate fisherman. A Delhi businessman, originally from Calcutta (Kolkata), is travelling to the same place to retrieve papers left to him by a deceased uncle. They meet and their stories unfold to shed light on a region's history and people's lives. Ghosh is just masterful in my humble opinion!
As is the case with most good books the book is also about ideas. Do we live our lives as masters of poetry or prose? Do we value the ideal, the dream, the mystical and intuitive or the straightforward, empirical and pragmatic? "The Tide" so dramatically depicted in this book is a metaphor for the ebb and flow of life. He also explores the importance and meaning of language and the incredible ties people have to the land. This is a lovely, lovely book.
A few other recommendations (of many many!):
Jhumpa Lahiri - The Namesake (also a great Mira Nair movie)
Kiran Desai - The Inheritance of Loss
Thrity Umrigar - The Space Between Us
Amitav Ghosh - The Glass Palace
Nepali Writers of note:
Samrat Upadhay - Arresting God in Kathmandu, The Royal Ghosts
Manjushree Thapa - Forget Kathmandu (non fiction - we keep losing and rebuying this book!)
* The cover art from Amazon doesn't compare to the gorgeous south Asian edition which has a silhouetted fishing boat in the reeds. Oh well!