Set in colonial India, this richly layered coming-of-age tale follows a spirited young artist on a journey up the Ganges — and through the enigmas of her past.
How can Anila Tandy, left to fend for herself after her mother's death, dare to apply for a job that is clearly not meant for a woman? But somehow the "Bird Girl of Calcutta," art supplies in hand, finds herself on an eye-opening journey up the Ganges, apprenticed to a gentleman scientist. As the lush landscape slips by, Anila dives into her past — a past where her beautiful Bengali mother still tells stories and her Irish father's mysterious disappearance lingers. Gorgeously written and rich with atmosphere, Mary Finn's debut novel tells the story of a determined young artist who must make her way in the dangerous world of late-eighteenth-century India.
About the Author
Mary Finn worked for years as a magazine journalist with Radio Telefís Eireann, the Irish broadcasting service. She says ANILA'S JOURNEY, her first novel, was inspired by the story behind the eighteenth-century PORTRAIT OF AN INDIAN LADY painted by Thomas Hickey. Mary Finn lives in Dublin.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The inspiration for this story came from a painting in the National Gallery in Dublin. Set in the lush tropics of 18th century India, this is an amazing, beautifully written tale. Anila Tandy is the biracial teen daughter of an Irish father and a poor but beautiful Bengali mother. Her father has mysteriously disappeared, and her mother has recently died, leaving Anila with kind guardians. Her guardians are moving to the city of Madras, and Anila wants to stay in Calcutta in case her father reappears. She has applied for a job traveling with a gentleman scientist for a month-long boat trip down the Ganges river. He is searching for new species of birds, and needs an artist to accurately record images of the birds they will see on the trip. Women at that time were extremely limited in the kinds of jobs they could get, and so though this was most unusual, it is believable because of Anila's artistic gifts and strong will. 7th grade and up.
When Anila Tandy's guardians, the Hickeys, decide to leave Calcutta, they beg her to accompany them, but she stubbornly refuses to come so that just in case her long-gone father returns as he promised many years ago, she'll be there. Miss Hickey then sets her up with everything she'll need to survive by herself. Most importantly, she finds Anila a job as a bird painter on an expedition up the Ganges River. As the days go by and she discovers new birds, she also reflects on her past. How life was like when her mother was still alive and her father was still around, or remembering the stories her mother used to tell. Along the journey, Anila also finds herself and grows up. ANILA'S JOURNEY was a well-written historical story. The re-creation of historic India was fascinating and I enjoyed learning more about the older Indian culture. I thought that it was really interesting how Mary Finn alternated the chapters by telling what Anila was experiencing at the present and then stories about Anila's past - and then bringing them together in the end. Anila herself was an interesting character who really grew up throughout the novel and became her true self. I loved all of the culture references and felt like I learned quite a bit. At times, the book got dry and I found that it was hard to keep reading, but then it would get better over time. Overall, I really did enjoy the book.