Sarita Mandanna Debut Novel Tiger Hills Impress All

For someone who became “ asocial and a little odd” during the five years she took to write her first novel, Torontobased finance whiz Sarita Mandanna was in full flow at the launch of her debut book Tiger Hills (Penguin India) at The Love Hotel, MGF Mall Saket, on Monday evening.

Flitting between nieces, cousins, authors, publishers and journalists, she didn’t exactly come across as someone who had forgotten the art of making small talk while balancing her job as vice- president of a private equity firm in New York, a long- distance marriage with hubby Siddharth in Toronto, and revising the manuscript that got Penguin India to pay her the highest advance ever to a debutante.

It helped that the evening was perfect for an open- air party: The mercury had come crashing down, the humidity was as bearable as it gets, and the breeze came as a pleasant surprise. But the one person missing from both the party and Penguin altogether was he who discovered the novelist in Mandanna — controversial former Penguin Canada CEO David Davidar.

“ He’ll weather the storm,” said Mandanna of her mentor, who was sacked from Penguin last month over charges of sexual harassment. Mandanna had first shown Davidar a collection of short stories on a visit to Toronto. “ He told me I should write a novel instead,” the writer remembered. Heeding to Davidar’s advice helped:

Tiger Hills , a sweeping saga set in Coorg, is being spoken of in the same breath as Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things . Like Davidar, who is strongly rooted to his family home in Wellington, Tamil Nadu, Mandanna, an army colonel’s daughter who has scaled Mt Kilimanjaro, has a strong connection to Coorg, which is evident from her descriptions of its beauty in her novel. “ I wanted to create a classical structure set in Coorg — very plot- driven, populated with defined characters and a long narrative arc,” said Mandanna of the book.

Outgoing Penguin India CEO Mike Bryan, who is due to take over Davidar’s job in Canada in August, is betting big on Tiger Hills . “ It is going to be a commercial success,” said Bryan. “ I loved the book. It is one which I should have written,” said author Jaishree Misra, who was in conversation with Mandanna at the launch. The novel is, as Penguin publishing and rights director Diya Kar Hazra points out, the return of good old- fashioned storytelling.

Mandanna is being represented by David Godwin, the literary superagent who was behind the phenomenal success of Arundhati Roy and Kiran Desai. Will Mandanna go on to win a Booker, like Roy and Desai? Misra said the Booker jury looks for another kind of writing. “ Usually, it likes simplicity in writing.

Of course, she made it a point to add, “ This is not just one of the best debut novels I have read, but one of the best novels.” Mandanna, on her part, is unfazed. “ The only bar I set myself is that I want to do something I am proud of,” she said. Booker or no Booker, there will be enough parties to raise a toast to Tiger Hills .


John { September 6, 2010 at 11:28 PM }
I am just half way into Tiger Hills by Sarita Mandanna and can't just believe how easily she has created an entire world for her character within the pages
Anonymous { July 23, 2011 at 10:11 AM }
If it was that successful, her Facebook page for her book wouldnt be struggling with just 800 fans.

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