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The Tiger's Wife [Hardcover]

Tea Obreht
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (121 customer reviews)
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Book Description

3 Mar 2011

The Orange Prize winning debut from a truly extraordinary talent.

'Having sifted through everything I have heard about the tiger and his wife, I can tell you that this much is fact: in April of 1941, without declaration or warning, the German bombs started falling over the city and did not stop for three days. The tiger did not know that they were bombs...'

A tiger escapes from the local zoo, padding through the ruined streets and onwards, to a ridge above the Balkan village of Galina. His nocturnal visits hold the villagers in a terrified thrall. But for one boy, the tiger is a thing of magic - Shere Khan awoken from the pages of The Jungle Book.

Natalia is the granddaughter of that boy. Now a doctor, she is visiting orphanages after another war has devastated the Balkans. On this journey, she receives word of her beloved grandfather's death, far from their home, in circumstances shrouded in mystery.

From fragments of stories her grandfather told her as a child, Natalia realises he may have died searching for 'the deathless man', a vagabond who was said to be immortal. Struggling to understand why a man of science would undertake such a quest, she stumbles upon a clue that will lead her to a tattered copy of The Jungle Book, and then to the extraordinary story of the tiger's wife.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: W&N (3 Mar 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0297859013
  • ISBN-13: 978-0297859017
  • Product Dimensions: 14.7 x 22.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (121 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 302,383 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Téa Obreht was born in 1985 in the former Yugoslavia, emigrating to the US in 1997. She was the youngest author on The New Yorker's Top 20 Writers under 40 List, and one of the youngest authors ever to be extracted in the magazine. Her short story, 'The Laugh', debuted in The Atlantic Fiction Issue and was then chosen for The Best American Short Stories 2010, while her short story, 'The Sentry' appeared in the Guardian Summer Fiction Issue alongside stories by Hilary Mantel and David Mitchell. She lives in New York.

Product Description


Téa Obreht is the most thrilling literary discovery in years. (Colum McCann)

The Tiger's Wife is a marvel of beauty and imagination. Téa Obreht is a tremendously talented writer. (Ann Patchett)

A novel of surpassing beauty, exquisitely wrought and magical. Téa Obreht is a towering new talent. (T.C. Boyle)

This is a distinguished work by almost any standard, and a genuinely exciting debut... Obreht has a vibrant, rangy, full-bodied prose style, which moves expertly between realistic and mythic modes of storytelling, conjuring brilliant images on every page... a delightful work, as enchanting as it is surprising, and Obreht is a compelling new voice. (Edmund Gordon THE SUNDAY TIMES)

the myth-infused tale of a young doctor in a war-ravaged Balkan country trying to find the truth about her grandfather's death. Obreht's novel is that rarity: a debut that arrives fully formed, super smart but wearing its learning lightly. Above all The Tiger's Wife bristles with confidence. (Adrian Turpin FINANCIAL TIMES)

Beautifully executed, haunting and lyrical, The Tiger's Wife is an ambitious novel that succeeds on all counts. It's a book you will want to read again and again. (THE INDEPENDENT)

The Tiger's Wife has been touted as one of 2011's outstanding debuts and it deserves its reputation...Weaving together fantastical tales and folklore with realism about coming to terms with loss and grief, it is also a book about the secrets people keep. This layering of stories creates a book rich in textures. Combining a mystery narrative, a family narrative and a book about the worlds of the imagination, Tea Obreht's novel is one that allows the reader to get lost in them. (METRO)

The Tiger's Wife, is assured, eloquent and not easily forgotten...war is just a backdrop, religions barely identified. It is the tiger, the deathless man, and the inquisitive doctor who lead the story through its layers of modern-day reality, magical realism, and folklore...her pacing in the book is delicious - Obreht has the storyteller's gift for suspense, and holds back details until the reader can wait no more...she has lived up to the early hype. (Joy lo Dico INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY)

The brilliant black comedy and matryoshka-style narrative are among the novel's great joys...Obreht has prodigious talent for storytelling and imagery (Kapka Kassabova THE GUARDIAN)

Obreht's landscape hovers half in and half out of fable - where villagers who daily risk being hoisted by landmines also fear malign spirits, tigers' brides and men who transform into bears...It's a part of the world that Obreht has made her imagination's own: raucous and strange and gorgeous and rather haunting. This is a pretty formidable first novel. Here be tigers. (Sam Leith FINANCIAL TIMES)

The Tiger's Wife, [Obreht's] debut novel written on a creative writing course at Cornell University is dauntlessly composed. Cool American realism collides with abundant magic realism...she is a natural born storyteller and this is a startlingly suggestive novel about the dying out of myths and superstitions and rituals that bind people to place: the retreat of the spirits. (Lucy Daniel THE DAILY TELEGRAPH)

anyone looking for something different shouldn't hesitate (DAILY MAIL)

Obreht threads together echoes of community gossip and folklore, vividly evoking the claustrophobic atmosphere of a small village, and the feelings of fear and hope that become heightened at times of war. This is a tale of many layers...It is a poignant, seductive novel (Mary Fitzgerald THE OBSERVER)

Already Obreht has a gift for crafting sentences, harnessing metaphors, and cross-hatching stories about war and death that elude most writers twice her a microlevel [The Tiger's Wife] is exquisite. It's the kind of novel that looks at is overarching theme of war by looking away, by zooming in on small, strange, slippery stories that may or may not be true...Many writers, from Rudyard Kipling to Yann Martel, have brought tigers to to life, but hers is a truly magnificent creation. (Chitra Ramaswamy SCOTLAND ON SUNDAY)

Obreht's novel is striking, affecting and ingenious...The Tiger's Wife is a haunting book...delightfully ambiguous. (Stuart Kelly THE SCOTSMAN)

spellbinding...Tea Obreht's debut has the fantastical allure of a folk fable (MARIE CLAIRE)

'Natalia, a young doctor, is on her way to deliver aid to a remote orphanage when she discovers her beloved grandfather is dead. As she tries to reconstruct her grandfather's last journey, she recalls his stories, which combine folklore and mystery with his exquisite humanity. Set in a Balkan country adjusting to life after the war, the book resonates with the aftershocks of conflict, old enmities, fatalism and superstition. Haunting, thoughtful and beautifully atmospheric' (***** Life-changing) (PSYCHOLOGIES magazine)

varied, poignant and beguilingly fantastical...The Tiger's Wife is an exciting, fast-paced and mystical novel that'll have you rushing to the end. (TIME OUT (LONDON))

'Natalia is a doctor visiting orphanages in the Balkans when she hears her grandfather has died in strange circumstances. Half-remembered snippets from her childhood take her on a journey where she comes across the story of the tiger's wife. This beautiful read is 25-year-old Obreht's debut novel.' ***** (STAR magazine)

Recalling her grandfather's stories, Natalia takes to the road to investigate the life he led. Before long, a cast of characters assemble including an immortal man, an escaped tiger and the deaf-mute tiger's wife. In this unlikely company, a magical reality emerges in which the violent realities of war are overcome; lending the heavy subject a stunningly light touch. (STYLIST)

Obreht, who was born in the former Yugoslavia and is, astonishingly, only 25, writes with remarkable authority and eloquence, and she demonstrates an uncommon ability to move seamlessly between the gritty realm of the real and the more primary-colored world of the fable...a richly textured and searing novel. (NEW YORK TIMES (USA))

"The Tiger's Wife," in its solemn beauty and unerring execution, fully justifies the accolades that Ms. Obreht's short fiction inspired. She has a talent for subtle plotting that eludes most writers twice her age, and her descriptive powers suggest a kind of channeled genius. No novel this year has seemed more likely to disappoint; no novel has been more satisfying. (THE WALL STREET JOURNAL (USA))

Deftly walks the line between the realistic and the fantastical¿In Obreht's expert hands, the novel's mythology, while rooted in a foreign world, comes to seem somehow familiar, like the dark fairy tales of our own youth, the kind that spooked us into reading them again and again...[Reveals] oddly comforting truths about death, belief in the impossible, and the art of letting go. (O: THE OPRAH MAGAZINE (USA))

A cracking, complex, gorgeously wrought saga that resonates as a meditation on life, love...and our responsibility to the stories we inherit from our grandparents...Obreht is a natural literary descendant of Isaac Bashevis Singer and Gabriel Garcia Marquez...The Tiger's Wife is an original and wonderful novel...It makes for a thrilling beginning to what will certainly be a great literary career (ELLE (USA))

[Obreht] spins a tale of such marvel and magic in a literary voice so enchanting that the mesmerized reader wants her never to stop¿[She] is joltingly young to have found such a clear, wise voice, moored by the faintly droll storytelling style of her heritage and set free by her own tremendous talent (ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY (USA))

One of the most extraordinary debut novels of recent memory...A gorgeous farrago of stories in which realism collides with myth, superstition with empirical fact, and allegory with history...Obreht elides the sentimental Chagall villages that other writers have made of Eastern Europe, crafting instead something far more ambitious, and universal: an apotheosis of storytelling as a bulwark against brutality - and a balm for grief (VOGUE (USA))

Ingeniously, Obreht juxtaposes [her protagonist's] matter-of-fact narration with contemporary folk tales that are as simple, enthralling, and sometimes brutal as fables by Kipling or Dinesen...Filled with astonishing immediacy and presence, fleshed out with detail that seems firsthand, The Tiger's Wife is all the more remarkable for being a product not of observation but imagination (Liesl Schillinger THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW (USA))

[A] brilliant debut...[Téa] Obreht is an expert at depicting history through aftermath, people through the love they inspire, and place through the stories that endure; the reflected world she creates is both immediately recognizable and a legend in its own right. Obreht is talented far beyond her years, and her unsentimental faith in language, dream, and memory is a pleasure. (PUBLISHER'S WEEKLY (USA))

Dizzyingly nuanced yet crisp, [and] muscularly written...This complex, humbling, and beautifully crafted debut from one of The New Yorker's 20 Under 40 is highly recommended for anyone seriously interested in contemporary fiction. (LIBRARY JOURNAL (USA))

Not even Obreht's place on The New Yorker's current "20 Under 40" list of exceptional writers will prepare readers for the transporting richness and surprise of this gripping novel of legends and loss...[Contains] moments of breathtaking magic, wildness and beauty...Every word, every scene, every thought is blazingly alive in this many-faceted, spellbinding, and rending novel of death, succor, and remembrance. (BOOKLIST (USA))

This debut novel from Tea Obreht has caused big waves in the literary world. Already nominated for an Orange Prize, it's being hailed as one of the year's best...A luminous debut. (CITY A.M.)

an ambitious and sophisticated work (MAIL ON SUNDAY)

engrossing, imaginative and intriguingly different (CHOICE magazine)

Obreht's prose - precise, lucid, at times darkly comic and packed with arresting imagery - is reason enough to read this book, but Obreht is also a formidably gifted storyteller... this is a tremendous debut, and it was with real sadness that I turned the last page. (THE LADY)

This story by a 25-year-old Serbian-American woman, of a young Balkan doctor named Natalia, her family and their homeland, is highly original, funny and frightening, and proof that there is no formula for precocity. Winner of the 2011 Orange prize for fiction (THE ECONOMIST)

Book Description

'Téa Obreht is the most thrilling literary discovery in years' Colum McCann (and she's only 24!)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
145 of 153 people found the following review helpful
By Ripple TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Téa Obreht's "The Tiger's Wife" comes with a fair degree of hype from the US, and largely it lives up to it, which is no small achievement. The main story is set in Yugoslavia and explores a young doctor, Natalia, seeking for the truth about her grandfather's death, while on a mission to deliver much needed medical aid to an orphanage in the war-ravaged Balkans. But what sets this book apart is the intricate weaving of reality with the myths and stories of the region. In particular there are two myths that represent a good chunk of the page count: the story of a tiger who has escaped from captivity after the World War two bombing of Belgrade and who has settled near a remote mountain village where Natalia's grandfather is growing up, and who develops a strange relationship with a deaf-mute girl who becomes known as "the tiger's wife"; and a mysterious story of the "Deathless Man" whom the grandfather encounters at various points in his life who appears to have the power to foresee others' death without being able to die himself.

Lovers of folk stories will love this combination, while those with a lack of tolerance for the more magical storytelling genre will inevitably find less appeal here. If you enjoyed Yann Martel's "Life of Pi", another tiger-featuring imaginative book, then this will be right up your street.

It's a surprisingly ambitious structure for such a young, first-time author and in most respects, she carries it off with aplomb, although I suspect that with a little more experience, some of the storytelling could have been tightened up slightly which would have enhanced the impact. At times the stories seem to drift on a bit.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Tedious and weak 4 Aug 2012
The fact that this won the Orange Prize says more about how obscure that award is rather than how good this book is.

Quite frankly, it's a very weak book written in a way that has no consistency or direction. There is little, or indeed no, plot to follow: one is left to "wander around" in multiple directions that take you absolutely nowhere. As other reviewers have said, I too ploughed through it with a mistaken sense of duty. I finally got to the end, but it remained weak and inconsistent throughout. Reading this was quite frankly a tedious waste of time.

I was also confused by the geographic references - deliberately kept ambiguous but resulting in confusion and uncertainty throughout. Here was an opportunity to really set the story and characters as the human side/cost of the regional warfare but this was ducked. Odd because it appears the author and her family would have been affected by those wars.

Is she a good writer? - not on the evidence of this book. Is it a "genuinely exciting debut" (Sunday Times)? - absolutely not. And quite why the Guardian reviewed it as a "black comedy" defeats me - I didn't see even the slightest element of comedy in any of the 335 dull pages.

The Tiger's Wife is a true example of marketing hype taking precedence over literary worth.
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63 of 69 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Tiger who came to Téa 16 Jun 2011
If you are a devotee of folklore and magic realism, The Tiger's Wife might appeal to you, but it did nothing for me. I dutifully ploughed my way through, hoping things would pick up, but they never did. I don't doubt that Tea Obreht can write, but I found this dull and heavy handed, sinking under the weight of its own self consciousness. There was far too much back-story to the characters which had the effect of dragging things down instead of moving things forward. The histories of all the people who graced its pages; the butcher, the blacksmith, Darisa the Bear, his sister Magdalena, the tiger's wife's sister etc. etc. were over-long and overdrawn. Even as the book should have been drawing to a close we still had to endure interminable detail about people like the apothecary and blind Orlo. There was clunky symbolism; many, many unnecessary characters (what was the point of Zora?); too much clutter, and no clear line through. Although set in the former Yugoslavia there is a lack of specificity, factions are referred to as simply `the other side' so I was never really clear who was who, which didn't aid my understanding of this conflict. Of course that was deliberate but it didn't work.

Much has been written in the other reviews about the deathless man and the tiger's wife herself (of whom the author unwisely tries to conjure up a logical explanation at the end). I just felt it was all a load of hokum.

The reading group notes in the back of the book were crass. I can't imagine them stimulating any debate (Was it any good? would be my first discussion question). There was even a two page plot summary preceding them. Presumably for those who just turn up for the wine and the company and can't be bothered reading the actual book (in this case, a good plan).
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
By Simon Savidge Reads TOP 1000 REVIEWER
I probably would have wanted to read Téa Obreht's debut novel at some point regardless of its inclusion on the Orange Prize long and short lists and then winning it because, regardless of the hype of her being claimed a young writer to watch, I like books that are rather magical and `fairytale for grown ups' was one of the things I kept hearing in regard to `The Tiger's Wife' when it was mentioned. It is also a novel about the country formerly known as Yugoslavia and its break up, a subject which fascinates me. I actually holidayed there as a child and was fascinated by the news as this country was torn apart. So its interesting that while aspects of it were brilliance, overall I was left a tiny bit let down. Let me explain...

For me one of the greatest charms of `The Tiger's Wife' was the story of the relationship between grandfather and grandchild. Our narrator, Natalia a doctor, tells us the tale of her grandfather's life from the memories she has of him and the tales that he told her of his former life after she learns from her grandmother that he has died in mysterious circumstances and after he disappeared telling everyone he was going to see Natalia. It's the mystery, the fact some of his possessions are missing and the need to understand him that sets Natalia on a mental, rather than physical, journey to work out just who her grandfather was.

The thing I loved about the novel also became the thing that I didn't love so much about it. As the story goes on we are introduced to the myths and fables of her grandfather's life. Whilst I love these sort of `fairytales for adults', sometimes I was just confused by them. I would read them, like the tale of the deathless man, really enjoy them and yet be left wondering as to their relevance as a whole.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars uninspiring
didn't connect with book and gave up
Published 3 days ago by Giova
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Amazing book!
Published 24 days ago by Khlari
5.0 out of 5 stars 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. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Cloggie Downunder
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Loved it, an unusual story, so rich in the characters revealed. You wont regret reading this wonderful tale
Published 2 months ago by yana childs
5.0 out of 5 stars A weave of intriguing tales
This is not what I was expecting. The main story is about a young woman who's grandfather told her about the deathless man and the tigers wife. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Heather Crawford
4.0 out of 5 stars gorgeous but unreal
among the most beautiful writing i have ever read and a peerlessly engrossing story in the realm of the real. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Zangiku
2.0 out of 5 stars Not very good
Artificial, quasi magical realism. Slight cultural interest, I felt it could have given a great deal more of interest about the local culture with stronger characterisation and... Read more
Published 9 months ago by LRE
3.0 out of 5 stars Little bit stereotypical and too long fairy tale about the Balkans...
I wasn't aware of all the praises this novel and its author received but read it by chance, based on the other books' recommendations. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Denis Vukosav
3.0 out of 5 stars An interesting book about Eastern Europe
Structure and contents a little bit ouf ot the ordinary. Contents relating to the old Ygoslavia, but written by a young American.., an interesting combination.
Published 10 months ago by Barbro M Fountain
3.0 out of 5 stars Weird
Having read a couple of excellent reviews, I had very high expectations of this book. Although the writing was impressive - especially for a young writer who wasn't born in an... Read more
Published 10 months ago by marianna
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