Saturday, December 3, 2011

Julie's Review: The Tiger's Wife

Summary: In a Balkan country mending from war, Natalia, a young doctor, is compelled to unravel the mysterious circumstances surrounding her beloved grandfather’s recent death. Searching for clues, she turns to his worn copy of The Jungle Book and the stories he told her of his encounters over the years with “the deathless man.” But most extraordinary of all is the story her grandfather never told her—the legend of the tiger’s wife.

Review: I know I am in the minority here but The Tiger's Wife was disappointing to me. It's not to say that I don't think that Tea Obreht has a definite gift for storytelling, she does but in the end the story fell flat. While I found the stories of The Tiger's Wife and the Deathless Mann fascinating, I wasn't sure in the end how they really shaped Natalia's Grandfather. I can surmise how they affected him and maybe that's all we as a reader are supposed to do.

The prose in the novel is gorgeous and Ms. Obreht definitely has a way with words. I would love to hear her read the book out loud and see these stories come to life from their wordsmith. I would actually like to read a novel that tells the story of The Tiger's Wife from her point of view or one about the Deathless Man's journeys.

I also didn't connect with Natalia. It wasn't that I didn't like her or didn't think she was doing good work but she felt distant to me. It felt like she was holding the reader at arms length. I don't always have to like the character but I have to wonder and care about what will happen to them.

My favorite part of the book was when Natalia and her grandfather are walking through the town and they see an elephant walking to the citadel. I could vividly see the image in my head and how awe-inspiring it must have been. I also love what her grandfather told her:

Eventually my grandfather said: "You must understand, this is one of those moments." "What moments?" "One of those moments that you keep to yourself," he said. "What do you mean?" I said. "Why?".... "But something like this - this is yours. It belongs only to you. And me. Only to us" - page 56
I just loved that. I thought it was beautifully said and very true. In this day and age of social media we feel the need to share everything and really some things are not made to be shared but enjoyed as our own experience.

Since The Tiger's Wife was much lauded and was a National Book Finalist, I expected more from it. Although, I have pretty much noticed in my reading life that most books that get awards are the ones that I don't really enjoy.  If you are a big fan of The Jungle Book, then you will definitely find The Tiger's Wife an interesting read.

Final Take: 3/5


The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson December 3, 2011 at 12:57 PM  

Surprised we differ so strongly on this. One of the best written, emotionally gripping novels I ever read. In fact I was just sobbing in the subway. But thanks for posting - it is always fascinating to learn the views of others who love books.

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