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The Tiger's Wife [Paperback]

Tea Obreht
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (119 customer reviews)

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Book Description

12 July 2011

'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

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Phoenix (12 July 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1780220790
  • ISBN-13: 978-1780220796
  • Product Dimensions: 17.6 x 11 x 2.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (119 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,670,556 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)

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 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)

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))

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)) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Book Description

'Téa Obreht is the most thrilling literary discovery in years' Colum McCann (and she's only 26!)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
144 of 152 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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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
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 2 days 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 26 days 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 1 month 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 3 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 8 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 8 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 8 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 9 months ago by marianna
4.0 out of 5 stars fascinating story
fascinating story using subtle layers of myth and family history - often quite shocking always thought provoking - there are many insights into living in a country which has had... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Barbara Osborne
1.0 out of 5 stars Better things to do.
There are only about 4 books that I have never been able to complete and I am sorry to say this is one of them. It was suggested to me by a friend and she waited for my comments. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Keith Hartwell
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