Review of The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht
Overview from www.bn.com: 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.
The Tiger’s Wife is a novel that defies categorization. It is difficult for me to say what genre it falls into, for example since the reader will encounter elements of more than one.
My first impression was that this book belonged in the Literary Fiction section though how it managed to be “literary” and make the New York Times Bestseller list was beyond me. After reading the entire novel, though there were times I was ready to call it quits, I can say that it is literary enough to be worthy of that designation.
Further in though, we also see many elements of the Fantasy genre. The animals engage in human behavior while the humans are seen becoming more like wild animals. Of course the tiger is the main character and we see how he connects our main character, a doctor named Natalia, and her grandfather.
By this point, I have usually gotten into the intricacies of the characters minds’ as well my own comments on the plot but this novel does not lend itself easily to that. This could be considered positive or negative. As for myself, I found this confusing.
Much of the story is actually the back story of various characters that Natalia’s grandfather has encountered throughout his life. The deathless man was my favorite. I found myself more interested in his story than in any of the other characters. I kept wishing that Natalia would spend more time talking about him. I wanted to know more about how he got the way that he was and yet when Natalia finally has a chance to question him she doesn’t seem even remotely curious.
The best parts of the novel for me, besides some of the interesting characters, were the descriptions. It is in this that the author shines. I can see the details she describes almost as though I were there because I actually understand them. This is not typical for me in most novels that rely heavily on description. I usually skip past the description in others for the sake of finding out what happens next but had I done that here I would have missed a good part of the story. Here is one of my favorites:
“When we reached the monastery, we forced our crooked-wheeled dolies over the stairs at the gate, through an arbor of vines that clung like spiders to the lattice above.” P. 99
The biggest negative for me was that it got confusing jumping back and forth in time as well as going from one character to another while failing to see the connection. It also was hard to see the connection of the tiger’s wife in the past to a present-day Natalia. I got lost.
The second negative was the use of the f bomb. Though it was not as bad as it has been in some of the other books I have reviewed on here, I wish I did not have to read it.
All in all, I found the book to be okay but not great. I think I was expecting it to be a little more realistic and a little bit more about the war. I just didn’t make the connection, if it was there to begin with. I would recommend this book only to readers who like literary fantasies and don’t mind a lot of back story.
Contains: some sexuality, domestic violence, animal violence, and repeated uses of profanity
P. S. Please forgive the appearance of this entry but it seems that Word Press has removed even more of its features from my disposal.