Thursday, 29 August 2013

Tea Obreht- The Tiger's Wife

Hmmm I have mixed feelings about this one, some parts I really loved, other bits I found a bit dull. I'm glad I read it, but I'd have reservations about recommending it to other people. Still, it was the 2011 Orange Prize for fiction, so it isn't all bad.

The Plot: Set in Yugoslavia, soon after the Yugoslav Wars,  Natalia, a young doctor, attempts to vaccinate an orphanage. Whilst on her philanthropic mission she hears of the death of her beloved Grandfather. Grieving, Natalia reminisces about her Grandfather's stories; the legend of an escaped tiger who forms a bond with a deaf-mute girl and The Deathless Man, an enigmatic figure who can predict when other people will die, but who cannot die himself.
Tea Obreht, The Tiger's Wife, review, paperbook

No surprises, given my love of fairy-tales, the aspects of The Tiger's Wife I enjoyed where the stories of The Deathless Man and  the tiger and the deaf-mute girl. The myths were carefully interwoven with the Grandfather's account of his childhood. Magical realism fits comfortably with the surrealism of the aftermath of war.

I also enjoyed reading about Yugoslavian superstitions, it's the Victorian in me coming out again, I found the morning rituals fascinating. Apparently when someone dies, their possessions and house should not be disturbed or cleaned for 40 days, so the soul is anchored to a familiar place and does not  wander aimlessly causing trouble. After the 40 days have passed, the soul is collected at the crossroads. I love things like this, the stories and rituals that are created to explain death, keep order and provide comfort are so imaginative and culturally significant.

My reservations about The Tiger's Wife, come from the fact that apart from the Granddad's stories and the folk tales, the book is rather forgettable. I read it just under a week ago, but I can't recall the ending.  Natalia didn't really resonate with me, her character wasn't half as interesting as her Granddad. I found myself racing through parts of the book, as I wanted to more know about the Deathless Man and was uninterested in Natalia's chat about becoming a doctor or listening to Bob Dylan.   

I'd recommend this book if you're a fan of The Life of Pi or A Hundred Years of Solitude.

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