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A Reader of Fictions: Take Me to Love (Part 1) - Anu Malik

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Take Me to Love (Part 1) - Anu Malik

Tiger Hills

Sarita Mandanna
Pages: 456
ARC Acquired From: Grand Central Publishing via NetGalley.

For this review, I am deviating from my normal format. Instead of summarizing the book first and then writing a review, the order will be reversed. First will be a brief review of how I felt about the book generally and why, along with some readalikes. Then comes a spoiler-filled summary of the book. If you think you would like to read the book, do not go on to the summary portion. My reason for doing so is that I cannot really express my feelings for the book without spoilers. However, no one should stumble upon a spoiler unwittingly.

Tiger Hills is a book dealing with rather awful people living in awful circumstances who have terrible things happen to them all the time. Or, as the author put it in the novel: "Sometimes, it would seem we are simply cast in the path of misfortune" (450). However, I felt no sympathy for these people, as their problems were largely of their own making and they always reacted to them in the worst way possible. Not a single character did I like, so I mostly just waited for the book to finally, mercifully end. I do not doubt, though, that this book will be quite popular with book clubs. I highly recommend this book to fans of The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls and Brick Lane by Monica Ali.

Spoiler-Filled Summary of Tiger Hills (Read at your own discretion):
Devanna's mother ran back to her family to escape her philandering husband. Not long after, she commits suicide, leaving her son Devanna, to the care of her family. Devanna becomes inseparable from a neighborhood girl, Devi. His father's family is not particularly interested in Devanna at first, but they do arrange for him to attend the local mission school. Devanna refuses to go unless Devi goes too, so she does.

At school, Devi and Devanna begin to grow apart. He quickly proves himself an incredibly brilliant boy and is taken under the wing of the Reverend who runs the school. Devi is not spectacular, though she is very pretty, and starts focusing more on girly habits, less on running around with Devanna. The Reverend helps to get Devanna into medical school, although he does not want to be so far from the boy (who reminds him of his dear friend from the past, now dead, who he may, perhaps, have had a romantic love for, whether he knew it or not), so he sends him to the school in Bangalore instead of Oxford.

A bully in medical school does horrible things to Devanna, targeting him for being the smartest and for his non-reaction to the initial ragging. Devanna was treated much like a social leper, because kindness to him would incur the bully's wrath. It is unclear, but likely, that the bully even went so far as to sodomize Devanna. Devanna's only consolation is to think of Devi and write her letters and think of visits home. The visits are always anticlimactic, but, on one fateful visit, she gives him a squirrel to keep as a pet when he leaves for school again. The squirrel, Nancy, gains him friends and keeps his spirits up. Of course, the bully finds out and disembowels (they are med students after all) the squirrel, leaving her alive through the whole process. This is too much for Devanna, who starts a fight, loses and quits medical school, running home to his province of Coorg.

Meanwhile, years before, Devi had gone to see the Tiger Wedding (weird ceremony that does not involve a wedding for a man who has slain a tiger) of Machu and instantly falls in love with him, though she is years younger and still a child. Devi swears to marry him one day, and, years later, is making good progress. He has sword to remain chaste, so has done his best to resist her, but their love is too strong, so he has promised to marry her when his vow is up.

Back to Devanna, who is coming home to Coorg disgraced and upset to find that Devi is likely to marry his cousin. He has always loved her and believes that she is his. So he rapes her outside in the field while she yells for him to stop. Then her family forces her to marry him, saying that Machu would never want her now. No one but them knows what transpired, so Machu is pissed at her betrayal. Since Machu and Devanna are cousins, they are now all in the same household, with Devi sworn never to forgive Devanna.

Devi gets pregnant from her rape, giving birth to a son, named Nanju. She can never really care for him, because of the taint of his conception. Not too long after, Devi begins an affair with Machu, who hates himself and her for it. She will not tell him that she has never slept with Devanna voluntarily (or more than that once). When Devanna finds out, he attempts to commit suicide, to free Devi. And fails. Although he does manage to cripple himself for life, saddling her with his care for the rest of her life.

Devi, Devanna and son move to a separate house for Devanna's sake. Devi and Machu are of course done, though they continue to long for each other from across family gatherings. Devi tries to get Machu to start up again, accusing him of still wanting her, as he has not yet married. So he marries and has a son of his own, Appu. When the family patriarch dies, he leaves nothing but the house they live in to Devanna, so Machu gives her his share, a coffee plantation next to the house (she does not know this).

Devi becomes rich working the coffee plantation, thanks to some intelligent suggestions from Devanna. Machu, now without income because he gave away his inheritance, joins the army and dies not long after. Devi convinces Appu's mom to let her care for him, as she can give him a better life and an inheritance. The mom relents and then commits suicide.

Devi is not bothered by that and happily raises Appu, while mostly ignoring Nanju. The boys go to school at the mission together at first, but Appu gets an offer to go study at a further away, fancier school. Appu learns while at school that his mother will give him all the money he wants and takes advantage of that. He does all sorts of awful things, like arranging cockfights. On a visit home, Appu has an affair with a married woman at the local club; then, at school, he uses moms money to find women. Nanju is a devoted son who studies agriculture to take over the coffee plantation.

The success of the coffee comes and goes, with the family nearly going bankrupt and losing everything at one point, saved at the last moment by the death of the Reverend (who had refused ever to speak to Devanna after he raped Devi, but left his estate to him anyway). Devi sends Appu to post WWI Germany to sign the papers to get the money from the Reverend's estate, arranging a marriage with her gorgeous niece (or something like that), Baby, so that he will be sure to return. Even with this inducement, Appu spends a long time boozing, smoking pot and conducting an affair with a harlot.

Devi, while waiting for Appu's return, informs Nanju that Appu will be inheriting the plantation attached to the house, but that she has purchased a larger plot of land in the south for Nanju. Nanju is rightly pissed, as he is the older son and has dedicated his life to the Tiger Hills, the home coffee plot. They fight about Devi's devotion for her adopted son and she tells him that she has always hated him, revealing the secret of his conception. Nanju leaves for the south. Devi is now devastated by the loss of the son she never loved.

Baby and Appu marry, but cannot produce children. The bloom does not remain on the rose for long. He gets the idea of a political career in his head (which goes nowhere like all of his schemes) and spends all of his time drinking at the club, which Baby hates. Appu has affairs and accomplishes nothing. And after hundreds of pages of Nanju being jealous of Appu for mother's love, now the reader gets to enjoy pages about how Appu is now jealous of Nanju. Word is received that Nanju has died and the family falls apart even more.

In the wake of all of this tragedy, Devanna starts wasting away, so Devi decides to forgive him. The only thing I liked about Devi was that she didn't forgive him, because that is not a forgivable thing, but oh well. That's pretty much the end (thank god), except for the epilogue, which reveals that Nanju faked his death. And I didn't care. I actually saw it coming.

That's a really long summary, so imagine how long the book is. Oy. And I really don't know what I was supposed to get out of it, except that life is terrible, affairs always happen and that no one can ever be with someone they love.

"This place called love
Is it for real?
Or is it just a dream?
Show me the way
Take me to love
Another world
How I long to be
Under clouds that don't cry
Wounded birds can soar high
Show me the way
Take me to love"

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