While Jim Corbett and his stories of the man-eater tigers have been extremely famous and popular in India, this book by Stephen Alter is first of its kind – a fiction with Jim Corbett as the protagonist. Picking up details from Jim’s life, like his hometown Nainital and their winter cottage in Kaladhungi, Alter has created a magical story revolving around the growing up years of Corbett.
Jim Corbett was born in India, grew up in Nainital, worked for the Bengal and North Western Railway and had a knack for tigers, especially man-eaters. In The Jungles of the Night captures Jim Corbett more enticingly as a young teenager who is enamoured by the hills and forest in which he lived. Jim was growing up amidst a number of siblings, on a mountain that was verdant and lush with rains.
He collected mosses, ferns and explored the hills on his own, learning about life outside his textbooks. One such expedition led him to the excavated grave of a lady long gone. The events that followed interested Jim immensely and he assisted police in the investigations of the disappearing remains.
I fell in love with the first part of this book and the lives of Jim and his sister Maggie. Being very close to each other, they almost shared the same life, guarding each other and sharing their little secrets. Jim would listen to stories on hunting from his eldest brother Tom and try a few on his own. The second half of the book illustrates Jim’s career in the Railways and his ascent as a shikari.
Jim Corbett was worshipped by the people in the hills for his contribution to their lives. But this work of fiction describes him as a dreamy teenager and very sensitive gentleman who was concerned for his people as well the tigers. He loved tigers, he didn’t kill them for fun or game. It was only when a man-eater went out of control that he was summoned to rescue innocent villagers from getting devoured by the beast.
Stephen Alter deserves a lot of praise for attempting to humanise the life of one of India’s most respected and coveted conservationists.
About the author:
Stephen Alter is the author of more than fifteen books of fiction and non-fiction. His honours include a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Fulbright award. His recent memoir, Becoming a Mountain, received the 2015 Kekoo Naoroji Award for Himalayan literature. He was writer-in-residence for ten years at MIT and directed the writing programme at the American University in Cairo. He is founding director of the Mussoorie Writers Mountain Festival.
Author: Stephen Alter
Publisher: Aleph Book Company
Release: August 2016
Genre: Fiction / Adventure
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