This is day three of the #WeekofReveiws #Reviewathon challenge hosted by Andi at Estella’s Revenge. If you would like to read my earlier reviews click here and here. And click here if you would like to see my star rating system. Also be sure to visit Estella’s Revenge to read Andi’s reviews and links to reviews by other bloggers participating in this challenge. Now on with the review!
The Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht
- Pub. Date: 2011
- Publisher: Random House
- Format: Paperback
- pages: 338
- Source: bookstore!
- 5 stars
“Come on, is your heart a sponge or a fist?” —The Tiger’s Wife
Summarizing this book is difficult. This story is comprised of so many stories. War stories, death stories, why I became a doctor stories, and, most of all, the stories that reveal who they are to others. Natalia and her grandfather go every week to see the animals at a Zoo in an unnamed city in the Balkans. But the animal they spent the most time with is the tiger. And while the watched the tiger, the Grandfather would read Natalia stories from The Jungle Book. As the stories skips back and forth through time we visit the Balkans in time of war both more recent and in the distant past. We visit folk stories and mythologies from central Europe. And most importantly we follow the stories of the grandfather as a young doctor who encounters again and again The Man Who Wouldn’t Die. And after the grandfather’s death, we discover the story of the Tiger’s Wife who fascinated the grandfather as a young boy in his home village. Framing all these stories are the wars in the Balkans. Whether the wars take place years ago or more recently, they affect everyone in the story.
This is an amazing novel. It won a slew of prizes back in 2011. And all of these awards are completely justified. The writing is gorgeous and the stories are fascinating. Since I grew up during the Cold War stories and fairy tales are completely off my radar. Even the Balkans, until the late 80’s and early ‘90’s meant nothing to me. I’m not sure I could’ve even point out the region on a map. But in the years since that has changed. I love to read the folklore from that region of Central Europe. And Tea Obreht’s telling of these stories is gorgeous. Take this passage from the beginning of chapter 2:
“Everything necessary to understand my grandfather lies between two stories: the story of the tiger’s wife, and the story of the deathless man. These stories run like secret rivers through all the other stories of his life – of my grandfather’s days in the army; his great love for my grandmother; the years he spent as a surgeon and a tyrant of the University. One, which I learned after his death, is the story of how my grandfather became a man; the other, which he told to me, is of how he became a child again.”
I immediately wanted to know these stories. Who is the Deathless Man? And who or what is The Tiger’s Wife? After this passage, I was all in for this story because magical realism is my jam, as the kids say.
I loved the characters in the story as well, Natalia who loved and cared for her beloved grandfather, and went to get him after his death. The grandfather who loved stories and sharing them with his granddaughter. The Deathless man who longs for death. And the sad Tiger’s Wife who suffers and overcomes her horrific life. And I love the setting. I love the war-torn landscape of the Balkans. I love reading about the past and present and how they are so connected. And soon I’m going to read this again. I’ll probably do it out of the order presented to see if it gives me even greater understanding of the story and themes.