ONE OF THE similarities between fiction and real life is that both are made more palatable by a decent plot. Of course, there are those who believe that life really is plotted, or who see patterns - a greater scheme - in the randomness of events, but that's a matter for them. What they are doing, essentially, is making a story out of human existence because the alternative (that there is no story) is too dreadful to contemplate. (Yann Martel’s Life of Pie a novel exposition of this.) For these people, life's scheme is revealed in the pattern; whereas the storyteller's task is to create the pattern while concealing its contrivance.
Amitav Ghosh places the notion of pattern - specifically, of interconnectedness - at the heart of his new novel. The characters in The Hungry Tide are enclosed in a maze of accidents, chance encounters, coincidences and convergences as intricate as the labyrinthine waterways of the Sundarbans, where the story is