The Tiger's Wife by Téa Obreht

The Tiger’s Wife’ is this year’s Orange prize winner book. It is a debut novel by a very talented young author, Téa Obreht. She is the youngest to win the Orange Prize at 25. It is also this knowledge which makes me marvel at the maturity and intricacy of this incredible piece of work, for Téa Obreht discusses many difficult subjects here and very confidently at that.

This is a story of Natalia, a young doctor who travels across the (unspecified but most likely situated across countries in the Balkans) border to treat the orphans on the other side. This is also the story of her grandfather who was born in a very small and isolated (fictional) village called Galina and who also grew up to be a doctor. Galina is up in the mountains, gets snowed upon heavily in winter, and is infrequently visited by hunters, vagabonds and later by the armies. In one such winter the village receives a majestic guest in the form of the tiger - a tiger running away from the bombing in his city zoo, desperately trying to acclimatize to his newly thrust upon freedom. He survives on dead, bloated human bodies and at the same time longs for the company of living humans that he is used to. He does find company, love and friendship in the small village, but there is also the inevitable hatred. The unexpected relationship between humans and animals unhinges the sanity of the tiny village. The surreal encounters do not end for Natalia’s grandfather with his childhood, but haunt him again in his youth and old age when he repeatedly meets the mysterious 'deathless' man. Natalia herself walks into the surrealism of her grandfather’s life in her quest for understanding more about him and his past.

Both the storylines entwine in the narrative and give a face to war - its expectation, its actual arrival in fragmented disasters, and the hopelessness of its conclusion. The most striking depiction of the war comes not through the details of bombings and horrifying disasters, but through the routines of normal days which put forth the unreality of the war, and more strongly the cruelty and unfairness of it. Téa Obreht’s writing is very free-flowing and the narrative is engrossing. At times the novel gets into an oral story-telling like style with many small storylines interspersed with the main plot, some of which are quite engaging and some a little distracting.

The novel received many good reviews and also some criticism, which is to be expected I think after a novel wins a major prize. But these discussions apart, I would really like to recommend this book for it is a very fresh and entertaining read and also provides a glimpse into the exotic lands and customs of the Balkans.

I had downloaded this book from Amazon for my Kindle. It can also be bought from Flipkart or Landmark in India.

9 comments:

Mukta said...

Nivi, this is a very cool post!
Book looks interesting.

Nivedita Barve said...

Thanks Mukta :)

Vrush said...

Hey Nive,

Nice review... your reviews make me want to read this book definitely!

Nivedita Barve said...

Thanks Vrush!

Lisa said...

My bookclub usually reads the winner of the Pulitzer but Goon Squad just wasn't tripping most of the ladies triggers. So we opted to switch to this one next month. Thanks for the great review!

Nivedita Barve said...

Thanks Lisa! I hope your book club likes this book.
BTW I really liked your blog 'Lit and Life'. I am going to blogroll it on mine :)

Neil Cumming said...

I stumbled across your blog not long after you started it, and it has spurred me on to do the same! I completely identify with the need to concretise your thoughts on a novel after finishing it. I've just read this book and so chose it as my starting point - I thought it was interesting that you mentioned Michael Ondaatje in your opening post, as the whole way through The Tiger's Wife my mind kept drifting back to the English patient. Please let me know if you agree with my views (hopefully soon I'll have more than one review up!).

Nivedita Barve said...

Thanks Neil! I am glad you have started a blog too. I just hopped over to it and really liked your review. Will be looking out for more recommendations there. Best wishes!

Arcopol said...

This one's a very significant book. We sold so many copies of this on uRead. Incredible what one prize can do!