THE TIGER’S WIFE by Téa Obreht
Random House, 2011
What an incredibly pleasant surprise. Not only did this not sound like my type of book (it has been well documented that I don’t get on with magical realism), I was doing a group buddy read – I started the book last, and by the time I picked it up, only one other person in the group ended up liking it. So despite all the critical acclaim, I thought it was a foregone conclusion that I was going to hate The Tiger’s Wife. But I actually have to side with the critics on this one!
This book was enchanting, I can’t think of a better word for it. I was so impressed with Téa Obreht’s writing; if I hadn’t known that she had written this in her early 20s I never would have believed it. Her ability to craft atmosphere in this meticulously detailed family saga kept me spellbound, even through sections where the narrative slightly stalled.
However, it didn’t completely work for me. The Tiger’s Wife is a story within a story – the protagonist Natalia is a young doctor on her way to a remote orphanage in the generalized Balkan country in which she lives, when she receives word that her grandfather has died. She then weaves together her own story with stories about her grandfather’s life, and the result is a case study in why I hate first-person minor so much. I found the frame narrative incredibly flimsy, to the point where I’d have gladly done away with it altogether and focused entirely on Natalia’s grandfather. Those chapters were the shining beacon of light in this book, and I can guarantee that a year from now I’m going to remember those vividly while not recalling a single thing about Natalia.
But all said, I thought this was a really enjoyable and worthwhile read that I’m glad to have finally picked up.
If you’re interested in reading the rest of the reviews from my buddy read group:
You can pick up a copy of The Tiger’s Wife here on Book Depository.