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This review is from: The Tiger's Wife (Paperback)
Perhaps my expectations were raised too high given the awarding of the 2011 Orange Prize and all the ecstatic reviews the novel has received. Perhaps disappointment was inevitable. It is far from the finished masterpiece I was expecting. And I was bored by some of it, which was another surprise for me; the backstories of the Apothecary and Luka were tedious because they served the plot but were dramatically unengaging. The contemporary framing narrative of Natalia's quest to find the reason for her grandfather's journey struck me as perfunctory and Natalia is very thinly drawn - a hook on which to hang the folktale element. This element is very powerful at times but rather unbalances the novel and feels unintegrated into Natalia's story making the novel seem disjointed. There are some first-rate scenes (the grandfather's dinner with the Deathless Man in `Sarobor' immediately before the Bosnian Serb onslaught for example) but it never quite coheres. Lastly, I don't understand why such a fuss has been made about the fine prose style. Yes, it can be fine as in the `Sarobor' dinner but more generally is serviceable. Occasionally it is bizarre, reading like a bad translation: `While the villagers of Galina are reluctant to talk about the tiger and his wife, they will never hesitate to tell you stories of one of the lateral participants in their story' (p.237). What?!
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Initial post: 28 Nov 2011 16:31:35 GMT
BlestMiss T says:
Another really apt review. Thanks. I came on here to write my own but with ones like yours that express similar sentiments so cogently, there's no need. I thought the very same thing about the 'lateral' sentence on p237; I even questioned my own understanding of the word! I agree also about the scenes with the deathless man. Definitely the most interesting and well executed aspects of the book. I actually enjoyed Luka's backstory too and Natalia's interactions with the disgruntled villagers but agree there are several other elements that prevent it from being a completely satisfactory read. I felt I should have come away feeling a lot more attached to the book but I didn't. At times I was just bored. Still there's no doubt the author is very accomplished at a tender age.
In reply to an earlier post on 13 Jan 2012 01:59:21 GMT
" ..deathless Man in `Sarobor' immediately before the Bosnian Serb onslaught". In fact, it turns out that Sarobor is Mostar (hence the bridge), and there was never a Bosnian Serb onslaught there. But in the earlier references to Sarobor, I was convinced that she was talking about Vukovar. And there is a scene of the Grandfather in Medjugorje in Herzegovina during the war (how did he get there?). It is clear that Obreht has deliberately distorted time, geography and ethnicities. I find the effects strangely effective. Like creating magic with very little effort.
In reply to an earlier post on 10 Mar 2012 19:13:17 GMT
S. Moore says:
Thanks for your post. The source for my comment about 'Sarobor'/Mostar was a (very positive) review of the novel by Charles Simic in The New York Review of Books. I can't reference/cite it unfortunately. Sorry.
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