As the first girl born to the Nachimada family in over 60 years, the beautiful Devi is the object of adoration of her entire family. Strong-willed and confident, she befriends the shy Devanna, a young boy whose mother has died under tragic circumstances. The two quickly become inseparable, until Devi meets Machu the tiger killer, a hunter of great repute and a man of much honour and pride. Soon they fall deeply in love, an attraction that drives a wedge between Devi and Devanna. It is this tangled relationship among the three that leads to a devastating tragedy—an event that forever changes their fates and has unforeseen and far-reaching consequences for generations to come.
"Set in Southern India at the end of the nineteenth century, Mandanna's magnificent debut follows the fortunes of two childhood friends throughout their lives. Precocious, sparkling Devi, adored by her parents, reaches out to Devanna, whose mother left his father and committed suicide, leaving the boy's place in his family uncertain. Devi and Devanna become the closest of friends, but as they grow older, Devanna develops feelings for Devi that she doesn't share. Devi has eyes for only one man, Machu, a cousin of Devanna's who is renowned for killing a tiger during a hunt.
When Devi reaches her teens, she pursues the older Machu, vowing he's the only man she'll marry. Devanna studies science and herbal remedies with a German missionary, who thinks of him as a son and helps him gain entrance to a university in Bangalore to study medicine. A brutish fellow student makes Devanna's experience at the university miserable, and a final monstrous transgression sends Devanna running back home to commit an act that will change the course of his life and Devi's forever. Once the story gets going, it is impossible to stop reading Mandanna's spellbinding epic."
—Kristine Huntley, Book List
"If this summer requires a must-read blockbuster, this debut should fill the beach-bag nicely. A leisurely family saga that unwinds from the 1870s to 1930s, it takes us to the Coorg highlands of southern India and a tortuous love triangle among the coffee growing clans. As it tangles like the jungle and rolls like the hills, Mandanna's cross-generational melodrama seasons its soapy pleasures with lavish evocations of the landscapes and the times."
"With that kind of expectation and with all that money at stake, a lot is riding on this book but does it live up to the billing? Reader, it does... This book is a staggering achievement, especially as it's a first novel... Sarita is a major new talent."
—Virginia Blackburn, Daily Express
"Sumptuously lyrical prose unfurls this utterly engrossing epic tale that'll seduce you from page one and hold you in its arms, breathless until the last word".
"If the summer requires a must-read blockbuster, this debut should fill the beach-bag nicely"
—Boyd Tonkin, The Independent
"An epic and extraordinary debut from an astonishing new talent"
—Caroline Jowett, Daily Express
"This book is a staggering achievement... Sarita is a major new talent"
—Virginia Blackburn, Daily Express
"Tragic in parts but ultimately a beautifully written saga, this is the emergence of a major new talent"
—Virginia Blackburn, Sunday Express
“Sensuous, dramatic and deeply moving.”
—Rosemary Goring, Sunday Herald
"A sensitive and convincing tale of love and tragedy set against the background of life in India under the British Raj, this sweeping epic is a magnificent achievement"
—The Good Book Guide
"Sumptuously lyrical prose unfurls this utterly engrossing epic tale that'll seduce you from page one and hold you in its arms, breathless until the last word"
"An exotic, beguiling page-turner"
—Fanny Blake, Woman and Home
“An extraordinarily imaginative novel with prose that catches in the heart like poetry”
—Leila Meacham, New York Times bestselling author of Roses
“Fast paced, yet detailed; the delineation of characters, even minor ones... is complete... Mandanna’s description of beautiful Coorg is a real winner.”
—Shreya Roy Chowdhury, The Times of India
“Gripping... Mandanna has an easy style and a knack for making her characters come alive.”
—Kushalrani Gulab, The Hindustan Times
“Mandanna is a gifted and evocative writer who can tell a story stirringly well.”
—Shashi Baliga, The Hindu
“Not everyone can tell a story with feeling and clarity. Mandanna can… [Tiger Hills’] characters rise above being mere symbols, and exist as flesh and blood men and women.”
—Partha Chatterjee, New Indian Express
“Mandanna’s skill in shaping her characters is amply evident... She has woven history and drama into a riveting story with the confidence of a natural.”
—Adheesha Sarkar, The Telegraph
Why I Wrote Tiger Hills
By Sarita Mandanna
It was an ancient custom in Coorg to bury the umbilical cord of a newborn. Past the jungle undergrowth, tucked among root and shale, deep into the earth. It served as a talisman, it was believed, a beacon showing the way home. So that no matter how far one went, no matter the distance nor the passage of time, ever this electric longitude pointed towards home.
Perhaps inevitably then, when I began to write Tiger Hills six years ago, Coorg was the setting that naturally unfurled. My words, echoing my grandfather’s as he told us stories around an oil lamp. The great-grandmother, widowed young, who walked her fields alone, a dagger tucked into her blouse. These stories and others, my roots, sunk for generations into these hills.
While Coorg forms the highly personalized canvas of Tiger Hills, I wanted to write a story almost classical in structure—a large narrative, whose characters struggle with universal themes. What do we do when thrust into circumstances not of our choosing? Tiger Hills explores the nexus between fortitude and acceptance, the choices we make in the aftermath of happenstance and the far-reaching impact they can carry. Determined not to be victimized, Devi fights for happiness the best she can. She isn’t always easy to like and makes some decisions that are far from right. And yet, who was truly the victim and who was the aggressor?
As she forges a life for herself within the parameters decided for her, Devi hardens. To such an extent, however, that she becomes wedded to a version of happiness too rooted in memory to ever become real. When is it best to let go, to seek happiness along new roads, even those previously discounted?
Devi’s story lies at the core of Tiger Hills, but it is the other stories, unvoiced, like a dried flower lying pressed within the pages of a book, that form its undercurrent. A missionary, searching for something he cannot express; an orphan, single minded in his devotion; a boy, marked by both the mother who leaves him to the care of another as well as the legend of a father barely remembered. Different interpretations of love—obsessive, possessive, filial; the ways we wield them to undo one another, the suffering we invite upon those we hold dearest.
Finally, redemption. Tiger Hills is an exploration of our all too human need to come full circle, for reconciliation, and the idea that often, it lies well within our grasp.