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The Tiger's Wife Paperback – 13 Jun 2011

3.4 out of 5 stars 142 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: W&N (13 Jun. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0753827409
  • ISBN-13: 978-0753827406
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.3 x 19.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (142 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 21,588 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

A wonderful, really remarkable novel...fascinating, unusual, original (Erica Wagner on WOMAN'S HOUR, RADIO 4)

A magical, distinctive tale. (Emma Lee-Potter DAILY EXPRESS)

As enchanting as it is surprising ... Obreht's prose style is full-bodied and vibrant, and she conjures brilliant images on every page. (Edmund Gordon SUNDAY TIMES)

War and its legacy ricochets through Obreht's kaleidoscopic dance of myth, folk memory and interrelated stories ... dizzying and ambitious (LONDON METRO)

a stunning tale with the mythic quality of a fairy story (TIMES)

Mysterious and funny (SUNDAY HERALD)

A distinctive, magical tale (DAILY EXPRESS)

Book Description

Winner of the Orange Prize for Fiction 2011

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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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Format: Paperback
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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18 Comments 72 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Paperback
This novel is hugely frustrating. An ambitious and clever concept with some elements of superb storytelling, it is ultimately too baggy and disjointed to be properly engaging. The same is true of Tea Obreht's writing; some of it is hauntingly beautiful and evocative, but she is horribly prone to overblown descriptions and subclauses.

The Tiger's Wife is a natural choice for book groups, but I would urge them to avoid the suggestions for discussion at the back of my edition (a Phoenix paperback). If "Why, in Darisa's dream, were the tiger and his wife always eating heads?" is one of the most pertinent questions raised by the novel, then I really have missed something.
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Format: Hardcover
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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