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3.5 out of 5 stars
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3.5 out of 5 stars
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I did enjoy this and I feel that one day Tea Obreht will write something superb. But sometimes I found myself getting a little bored and skipping pages, I would not have been moved at the death of any of the characters except the Tiger's Wife herself, and I found it quite hard to keep track of what was happening as the story darts about with many little side-tracks. But yes, beautifully written
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on 28 June 2017
Worth a good reaf
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 13 February 2016
Probably a *3.5 for this highly unusual, well-written and ambitious first novel, in which the author gives us two stories in alternate chapters.
In one, set in the modern day, narrator Natalia, a young doctor, tells of her posting to a village orphanage. She recalls the Yugoslav wars of her childhood, and her beloved grandfather, who has just died.
In the other thread, she relates stories her grandfather told her: his several meetings with the "deathless man" ; and his memories of a deaf-mute woman, beaten by her husband, but castigated by the villagers as "the tiger's wife" for apparently helping an escaped zoo animal...
This is a very symbolic work, requiring focus and which would benefit from a second reading. I appreciated the writing quality but nevertheless was glad to reach the end!
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 9 June 2013
Like many, I imagine, I was attracted to this book by the author's success in winning the 2011 Orange Prize for Fiction with this her first novel which I found overlong.

Two stories entwine - that of Natalia, a young medic in the Balkans in the immediate aftermath of the War who attempts to deliver vaccines to an orphanage, and the story of her grandfather, who has just died, as both a young child and as a medical professor who accompanied her to visit a tiger in the city zoo with a copy of Kipling's The Jungle Book in his pocket.

A great deal of 20th century and contemporary history is included and one should not doubt the personal involvement of the author's family and friends in many areas providing background to the story. However, my enjoyment was severely constrained by the apparent lack of any effective editing.

The book is divided into chapters each of which includes to be one or more stories but which are expanded into page after page of meandering text, much of which strays well outside the borders of the original story. The story involving Natalia the vaccine deliverer is rather weak and the characters involved in it are, in my opinion, poorly presented with, perhaps, the exception of her friend Zora, and I could not understand her motivation to travel secretly to the place where her grandfather had died to retrieve his belongings.

The stories about Natalia's grandfather as a child and his dealings with the eponymous Tiger's Wife are more interesting are too often overshadowed by folk tales. It was also too great a challenge for the author to introduce a deaf-mute as a leading character. However, a series of more-or-less interesting chapters does not add up to a substantial novel. As the novel nears its end there is some rambling which, as suggested, should have been edited away. Does the back story about Luka, the husband of the Tiger's Wife, Darisa the Bear (hunter) and the apothecary Suleimanovic justify the space? not in my view.

The city of Sarobar is presumably Mostar and there really was a zoo in Belgrade that its citizens looked after until it was closed but such identifications add little to the novel. The story of Gavran Gaile, and its magic realistic centre, did not concern me but his involvement with two rational medical scientists certainly did.

One reviewer has suggested that the book might be intended for the teenager audience so this may be one reason for my lack of enthusiasm and engagement. I will probably read Obreht's next book to see how she deals with a subject that will presumably be less familiar to her.
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on 26 April 2015
I came across this novel in a charity shop and had it sitting about for some time before I actually began to read it. I Loved the richness of it. I enjoyed the interweaving of characters, magical and real. I loved the slipping through history, forward and backward of a county after war, during war and waiting for war to begin. It took some discipline at times to stay with the story but it was worth it. I like to be challenged , to put some effort into engaging with a plot. This is definitely not a book that you are spoon fed, so if you want something simple this may not be for you. However, if you want a wealth of history, magical journeys, fascinating characters, all beautiful described, give it a go. I was really surprised to discover that this beautiful moving book was written by someone so young. I look forward to reading more from this author
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on 10 June 2011
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. In being rather surreal I felt that Téa Obreht lost me in places no matter how enjoyable, funny and magical the mini story which creates the overall story (anyone else getting a bit confused?) was I couldn't get it to work overall.

The same applied to the title character/fable of `The Tiger's Wife', it was all wonderfully written and inventive but... but... but... something wasn't quite working for me. It seemed in some ways to be a book made up of many things, yes I know most books are but these things didn't quite connect. It seemed to want to be a book of myth and of storytelling, a book of war and a book of love - both of the family and a love story in some ways. I thought the way Obreht discussed how the country was fracturing and yet no one initially sensed danger until loved ones went missing was superb. It was only a part of the book though. In some ways there were two books in one. In fact the best way to summarise this novel would be to say that I think the sum of its parts are fantastic, and would have made a great short story collection yet as a body of work it didn't quite gel in the way I was hoping or maybe even expecting, that could be me more than the book or the author.

That said I did like this novel a lot. I particularly enjoyed the mini-stories, and would happily read a collection of fables should Téa Obreht write one, in fact I am hoping she does. As for the hype around Téa Obreht being one of the finest young authors around, I would agree to an extent. I found the writing in `The Tiger's Wife' was impressive, funny, dark, honest, and quite compelling in many respects. I just didn't quite connect with it personally (where emotion is occasionally lacking imagination is certainly in abundance) yet I certainly enjoyed getting lost, and occasionally confused by it. I will definitely read her next novel or collection.
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on 3 September 2011
It was difficult to get into this book whose disjointed writing style, far too lengthy phrases and definitely no plot led me to give up before the end. At least the author should have named the country from the Balkans where her story is taking place.
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on 14 October 2011
The Tiger's Wife is set in former Yugoslavia in the years following the recent war. It follows Natalia, a young doctor on an aid mission to an orphanage who learns of her grandfather's death of cancer, as she seeks to find answers to the circumstances surrounding her grandfather's death.

Obreht has a natural talent for story-telling and the story of Natalia's grandfather's life is told as a series of myths and folktales. The main story of the Tiger's Wife relates to a tiger that escapes from the zoo and settles in the forests surrounding the grandfather's boyhood village. The tiger is a constant and ominous presence for the villagers and is befriended by the mistreated, deaf-mute wife of the local butcher. The second main tale concerns that of the Deathless Man, who the grandfather encounters a few times throughout his life. This is a young man who can foresee the death of others whilst not being able to age or die himself. The author tells these tales beautifully and they are absorbing. The backdrop of a country recovering from war emphasises the need for people to retain their traditions and identities through the passing down of stories.

This book was a lovely read and I can see why it won the Orange Prize, the prose is beautiful and the stories are original and compelling. My main problem with the book is that it didn't come together as a whole. I liked the tale of the Deathless Man and I liked the story of the Tiger's Wife but they were completely unrelated to one another. I thought the stories would overlap somehow but all they had in common was the grandfather. I think this book is worth less as a whole than the sum of its parts so perhaps Obreht should have limited the number of stories within this book and saved them for her future novels. She is young and obviously brimming with ideas so I'm sure there will be much more to come from her. This is a wonderful read but not quite good enough to get 5 stars from me.
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on 17 July 2011
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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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Natalia, a recently qualified doctor goes to an orphanage in the next country to help inoculate the children.

The story becomes a journey into her family's history, the nightmare past of her country and helps her understand the present time as she appreciates and comes to terms with her own history. Her grandfather had died in mysterious circumstances, apparently on his way to see Natalia. She finds this odd as she was unaware of his intended visit, and he had been diagnosed with a terminal disease that he kept concealed, and she suspects there is some secret reason for his journey.

Natalia goes back to the stories that her grandfather told her when she was young. Amongst the tales, she finds the "The Tiger's Wife", and through this story and others, she finds out some of the story of her grandfather's life.

It is not immediately obvious how all these stories link back to the original mystery. But reading these stories is more important than solving the mystery, showing how stories are important to us in our lives, how myths and legends shape our lives, and come to form part of the reality that we live in. How belief can sometimes be stronger than truth or reality, and how we often hide behind these myths, to avoid the unpleasant truth of our responsibilities and relationships.
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