Reader reviews and comments on The Tiger's Wife, plus links to write your own review.

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The Tiger's Wife

A Novel

by Téa Obreht

The Tiger's Wife by Téa Obreht
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2011, 352 pages
    Paperback:
    Nov 2011, 368 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Sarah Sacha Dollacker

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Power Reviewer Cloggie Downunder

an amazing debut
The Tiger’s Wife is the first novel by Serbian-born American author, Tea Obrecht, and is the winner of the 2011 Orange Prize for Fiction. Young doctor, Natalia Stefanovic is on an assignment with her life-long friend Zora to innoculate the children of a remote Balkan village orphanage when she learns of her grandfather’s death. Her grandmother believes he was on his way to meet Natalia, is distraught that he died alone in a town none of them recognises, and that his belongings are missing.

As she tries to come to terms with the loss of a man who loomed large in her life, Natalia is distracted from her medical duties by memories of her grandfather and also by the strange digging activities in a nearby vineyard. Obrecht employs three narrative strands: Natalia relates what happens on her vaccination excursion; her grandfather, a well-respected doctor, tells of his three encounters with a deathless man; and Natalia chronicles the events of a certain winter in World War Two, when the village her grandfather grew up in was visited by a tiger. In each of the narrations, secondary characters are elegantly given backstories so that a collection of short stories is seamlessly woven into the whole. Obrecht’s characters are interesting and authentic and her descriptive prose is wonderfully evocative: “Pigeons, clustered thick enough to be visible from the hill, shuffled like cowled women up and down the street..”

Against a backdrop of seemingly ever-present war, Obrecht explores superstitions and customs, secrets and lies, fears and rituals, history and folklore, myths and mysteries, love and revenge, and of course, death. This moving and thought-provoking novel is an amazing debut. Readers will look forward to more from Obrecht.
Judy R.

Extraordinary.
I read this book twice in immediate succession. Not because it was obscure, but because it was multidimensional and I wanted to savor all facets. The story-line alone was compelling and life-like in its detail. And profoundly personal in its omissions. If you are looking for a book that fits comfortably into the usual parameters of neat endings and predictable plots, be prepared for a paradigm shift. If you are willing to be lured into the depths of defining fear, love and meaning through your own inner dimensions - unfasten your seat belt and see where you land.
Cynthia

Great read - and a lot to think about afterward
This is a book you will be thinking about for weeks after you read it. The interwoven stories are fascinating, but the author leaves it to the reader to do a lot of the work of putting them together. The stories are metaphors for a larger theme, and I re-read many parts of the book at the end to figure out the overall meaning. I think that the author should probably have made her metaphors more apparent, but then again I have really enjoyed puzzling out my interpretation. The author is an incredible storyteller who can hold your interest even when you aren't sure where she is taking you.
Power Reviewer Diane S

The Tigers Wife by Tea Obreht
I'm not quite sure how I feel about this book. It was exceptionally well written by one so young, a story about a young doctor, Natalia, who while on her way to an orphanage with inoculations finds out her beloved but terminally ill grandfather is dead. He was, however, in a place he should not have been and she sets out to find out why. She uses stories he had told her while growing up to help make sense of his death and the mystery of his location. In some places it got tiring reading about the old stories while trying to make sense of the new. Anyway I have mixed feelings about this book.
avward

Indigestion
Although a good first novel, I do feel it wasn't necessary to have that many myths/legends or folklore stories to get her point across. I feel with all that that was going on, I got a bit lost and found the history of characters like the 'apocrapher' and the 'bearman' unnecessary and distracting from her main story. However, I would have liked to have read all about them in her next book, as they are worth telling. I feel the author had too many ideas and could have kept some for the future novels.- Slightly 'overworked', a mistake that young painters often make on an artwork.
In conclusion, although well written, I have indigestion from this over stuffed feast of stories and time frames! For me a 'simpler meal' would have sufficed perfectly.
Power Reviewer Dorothy T.

Original fiction
This novel is a mixture of reality and fantasy, but it's choppy construction and large group of characters make it hard to follow and the ending unclear. The author may be on to something original; it may be interesting to see what she does next.
avid

what? when? who?
While there were some intriguing ideas expressed in this book, it just didn't have enough clarity for me to "get" the author's message(s). The commingling of actual and fictional history and geography really threw me for a loop. I never could get my bearings in either realm. Too much metaphor/parable also left me guessing about what direction the author was trying to get me to follow her in. And the ambiguous "girlfriend"? I suppose it doesn't really matter if it was a lesbian relationship or not, but why the ambiguity? I think this author has something to say, but I don't think she has really said it in this book.
inmyownopinion

Boring.
I felt like this is a young writer aspiring to be like Hemingway: overly descriptive to the point of boredom, but unlike Hemingway in the sense that the dialogue is too short and she never seems to get to the point. It was like reading a story from a person with ADD, she jumped around a lot, and not in any way that made sense or seemed to pertain to the previous passage. And then she, without warning, goes back to the story she was telling five stories before. While her writing, when focused on one story, was descriptive and somewhat interesting, after getting 48 into the book, I still was not interested in continuing. To me, this book did not live up to the hype.
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