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The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht

The Tiger's Wife (original 2011; edition 2011)

by Tea Obreht

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3,4622721,544 (3.53)1 / 544
Title:The Tiger's Wife
Authors:Tea Obreht
Info:Large Print Press (2011), Edition: Lrg, Paperback, 491 pages
Collections:Tuesday Book Club
Tags:2012 Booklist

Work details

The Tiger's Wife by Téa Obreht (2011)

Recently added byprivate library, kathrynirena, sandrikoti, tmmeyer, KathyQOTN, GwenMcGinty, oceanview, Karo1469
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English (273)  Dutch (1)  Danish (1)  German (1)  Spanish (1)  French (1)  All languages (278)
Showing 1-5 of 273 (next | show all)
Over twenty years ago, I was in France and the Berlin wall was coming down. Easterners and Westerners were freely interacting for the first time in my lifetime. I remember thinking that I couldn't wait to read eastern European literature. And then a war intervened. Now, finally, we are seeing more of their literature.

This book is a story of a grandfather and his granddaughter, and the village lore that spanned their lifetime, and the tiger lurking in the woods - is he tame or ferocious? Don't be put off by the apparent youth of the writer, she has a rich voice and employs literary devices that many writers never achieve.

Here is a quote that is quintessentially Eastern European village talk:

“We're all entitled to our superstitions."

And a lovely line fron grandfather to granddaughter:

“Come on, is your heart a sponge or a fist?”

And of course, the book is about war, many wars:

“We were seventeen, furious at everything because we didn't know what else to do with the fact that the war was over.”

― Téa Obreht, The Tiger's Wife
( )
  sydsavvy | Apr 8, 2016 |
I don't get this book. I'm not much for symbolism, so if the entire message of this book is cloaked in symbolism, then that's why I don't get it. Nothing makes sense. Some parts of the stories held my interest, but the long descriptions of people's life who seem to hold no importance to the overall story frustrated and bored me.

And I have a question...

Is the woman Luka wanted to marry the same woman the deathless man ran off with and married?

I skipped or skimmed much of the long descriptions and at the end, I had no idea what the actual conflict of the story was and if anything was resolved.

Would anyone like to explain the purpose of the story to me? Please enlighten me. ( )
  Raeadav | Mar 25, 2016 |
Probably if I had known that this book had a magical realism theme I would not have downloaded it. I am not a big fan of magical realism although I know others are. The unreality of the story takes over and obscures some of the fine writing.

Natalia is a doctor, following in the footsteps of her beloved grandfather. She lives with her mother, grandmother and grandfather in a city somewhere in the Balkans. She was a teenager when the civil war took place and now that it is over she is going to a town on the other side of the border to treat orphans. On the journey there she learns that her grandfather set out from home ostensibly to meet her but that he died. Natalia had known he was ill but she and her grandfather kept that knowledge from her mother and grandmother. Her grandmother is very upset that her husband died away from home and that it takes some days for his body to be sent back. When it gets there his belongings are not with him so Natalia must go to the village where he died. As she drives she thinks about the stories her grandfather used to tell her. His stories about the deathless man who was a man that could not die but could foretell the deaths of others are much on her mind. Although she always thought that the deathless man was a myth when she retrieves her grandfather's belongings she thinks they might be true. Back at the orphanage she is faced with another mythical situation and, despite her scientific training, she starts to believe that these myths may be based on facts. Finally the story of the tiger's wife that she discovers when she goes to the village that her grandfather was born in is something she comes to believe.

This is a first novel so some of the issues I have with it might be due to those defects that are so common in first novels. There is just too much detail for the reader to take in or at least for this reader. ( )
  gypsysmom | Feb 15, 2016 |
"These stories run like secret rivers through all the other stories of (my grandfather's) life"
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! ( )
  starbox | Feb 13, 2016 |
I didn't love this story...just not my thing, I guess. ( )
  Jen.ODriscoll.Lemon | Jan 23, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 273 (next | show all)
"For Obreht, the mind’s witness is more than equal to the eye’s. And her narrator, in retelling the experiences of her grandfather’s generation, enfolds them into her own. As his vision joins hers, old and new memories collide in a vibrant collage that has no date, no dateline."
added by LiteraryFiction | editNew York Times, LIESL SCHILLINGER (pay site) (Mar 11, 2011)
Obreht has prodigious talent for storytelling and imagery, so it seems only a matter of time before she writes something truly great.

added by zhejw | editThe Guardian, Kapka Kassabova (Mar 11, 2011)
"Ms. Obreht has not only made a precocious debut, but she has also written a richly textured and searing novel."
added by LiteraryFiction | editNew York Times, Michiko Kakutani (pay site) (Mar 10, 2011)
Haunted as it is by the specter of civil war, this confident debut steers clear of specific blame for any particular group, concentrating instead on the stories people tell themselves to explain the unthinkable. While at times a bit too dense and confusing, Obreht’s remarkable story showcases a young talent with a bright future.
added by Shortride | editKirkus Reviews (Jan 15, 2011)
Debut novels either arrive on the scene trailing a gust of hype or without much fanfare at all, but Téa Obreht’s first effort comes with more literary baggage than would be allowed on a flight...The Tiger’s Wife is by no means a perfect novel; its fits-and-starts structure leans more toward self-contained small gems than powerful overall effect. But Obreht has much to impart about the power of stories and the ways in which they bind families together, shut out ever-evolving cataclysm, and force people, young and old, to reckon with their true selves....
Like any good sorcerer, the spell Obreht casts is strong enough to circumvent flaws, and to invite the reader to hope she’ll continue honing her literary magic with even greater depth and care.

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In my earliest memory, my grandfather is bald as a stone and he takes me to see the tigers.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0385343833, Hardcover)

Author One-on-One: Jennifer Egan and Téa Obreht

Jennifer Egan is the recipient of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for her novel A Visit from the Goon Squad, which was also awarded the National Book Critics Circle Award. She is the author of The Keep, Look at Me, and the story collection Emerald City. Her stories have been published in The New Yorker, Harper’s Magazine, GQ, Zoetrope: All-Story, and Ploughshares, and her nonfiction appears frequently in The New York Times Magazine. She lives with her husband and sons in Brooklyn.

Jennifer Egan: One of the central powerful relationships in the book is between Natalia and her grandfather: it’s not the type of relationship we usually see as the primary relationship in a novel. Could you talk a little about that grandparent-grandchild relationship, your feelings about it in your own life and how it became central in this novel?

Téa Obreht: I grew up with my grandparents on my mother’s side, and they essentially raised me. As a kid, you resist the idea of your own parents having had lives and pasts of their own. Snuff me out if I’m wrong here, but I see that as something prevalent in your novel A Visit From the Goon Squad: a sense of the parent-child relationship being very tense and of children not wanting to live in their parents’ shadow. When you’re growing up, the lives of your parents aren’t that fascinating, but there is this fascination with grandparents. Because of that great amount of time that has passed between their youth and yours, and the fact that they lived entire lives before you even got there, you can’t really deny their identity as individuals prior to your existence they way perhaps you can with your parents. There’s also an awareness that the world was very different when they were living their lives.

Egan: Animals play such an enormous role in the novel: the tiger, the dog, Sonia the elephant, Darisa who seems to be part-human, part-bear. You write so movingly about animals that I found myself close to tears every time you wrote about the tiger from the tiger’s point of view. Do you have a strong connection to animals in your life? How is it that animals end up figuring so enormously in this story?

Obreht: I’m definitely, it turns out, the kind of person who’s a total National Geographic nerd. I’m there for all the TV specials. As I’ve gotten older I think my awareness of the natural world and animals’ relationship to people--both culturally and biologically--has grown. It was fun to write from the point of view of the tiger, and emotionally rewarding, but I think the animals also serve almost as markers around which the characters have to navigate. I don’t think that was something I did consciously, it just sort of happened. There is something jarring about seeing an animal out of place: there’s a universal feeling of awe when you see an animal, particularly an impressive animal, out of place.

Egan: There are really two worlds in the book which mingle and sometimes intersect: there’s the present day political, medical, scientific situation in which Natalia operates, and then there’s this more mystical, folkloric world of the grandfather’s past. How did these define themselves in your mind? Was it hard to move between them?

Obreht: Pretty early on in the writing I realized that mythmaking and storytelling are a way in which people deal with reality. They’re a coping mechanism. In Balkan culture, there’s almost a knowledge that reality will eventually become myth. In ten or twenty years you will be able to recount what happened today with more and more embellishments until you’ve completely altered that reality and funneled it into the world of myth.

A Letter from the Author

Téa Obreht was born in Belgrade in the former Yugoslavia in 1985 and has lived in the United States since the age of twelve. Her writing has been published in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Harper’s, and The Guardian, and has been anthologized in The Best American Short Stories and The Best American Nonrequired Reading. She has been named by The New Yorker as one of the twenty best American fiction writers under forty and included in the National Book Foundation’s list of 5 Under 35. Téa Obreht lives in New York.

After completing my first novel, The Tiger’s Wife, I’ve found myself indulging in a sentimental mood. I pretend that this is due to my need to retrace my steps, to see how it all came together, and, by remembering what I did before, somehow speed my next project along; in fact, I am probably just procrastinating or being insufferable, mulling over memories that, due to the late hours, were doomed to an impregnable haze a long time ago. I dig through my “notes”: folded scraps of paper, the backs of torn-open envelopes where I doodled plot points and lines of dialogue, index cards with cryptic inscriptions—“BUT WHAT HAPPENED TO THE WATERMELON?!?!?”—punctuated as though I’d had some kind of civilization-saving breakthrough.

For whatever reason, as I go through my notes, I spend much of my time revisiting the evolution of my characters.  Who’s been there the longest? Who was thrown out at the last minute? Who was the life and soul of the first draft, and then ended up with one dialogue in the third? Who’s been renamed, transformed completely into somebody else?

>In some ways, the answers to these questions are both pointless and intensely personal, like telling a long-distance friend about how you’ve fallen in love with a person they have never met: they can listen politely while you rattle off a list of traits or events, but a whole world of experience separates the storyteller from the listener. But I do believe that thinking about these things gets back to the vital question of artistic control, and the surprising ways in which your work takes on a life of its own. In The Tiger’s Wife, I found, of course, that core of the cast members— a tiger, his “wife,” a little boy—were all together at the outset, in the spring of 2007, peopling a lackluster short story about a deaf-mute girl who arrives in a snowbound village in pursuit of the escaped tiger with whom she performed in a traveling circus. But, to my surprise, I also found a then-minor character called Dariša the Bear.

Originally, he was a mean drunk, a ruthless and uncomplicated villain, hardened by religious fanaticism, and I wanted the reader’s revulsion with him to be simple and complete. When the story began to expand, and the village of Galina and the characters who live there expanded with it, there was no room for Dariša; his kind of villainy had been eclipsed by a far more sinister character, and he was extracted and put away. He wouldn’t find his way into the book again until one afternoon, almost a year later, when I found myself at the Moscow flea market of Ismailova—a townie-shunned tourist trap against which the few Russians I knew had cautioned me—and among the predictable lacquered matrioshkas, bootleg DVDs, prints of Soviet propaganda and fake Fabergé baubles, I met the bear-man. I can’t picture his face anymore, but I do remember that he had pitched his booth at the top of a wide, stone staircase, and that, draping down from the top like water, were the pelts of maybe two dozen brown bears of all shapes and shades, mouths agape. We must have talked—I can’t imagine not asking him where he was from, or whether he had done the killing himself—but I don’t remember the conversation. What I do remember is going home that afternoon and dredging up a man reincarnated as Dariša the Bear, a hunter and taxidermist whose obsession with death, drawn from great personal loss, is rooted in his desire to understand and preserve the majesty of things once living.

I would never have thought, at the outset of all of this, that of all the characters in The Tiger’s Wife, I would end up feeling closest to Dariša. Perhaps it is because in a roundabout way I have ultimately spent so much time with him; perhaps it is because, in the end, he becomes a man who seeks to capture life in the absence of it. After all, isn’t that what storytellers really do?

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:09 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Remembering childhood stories her grandfather once told her, young physician Natalia becomes convinced that he spent his last days searching for "the deathless man," a vagabond who claimed to be immortal. As Natalia struggles to understand why her grandfather, a deeply rational man would go on such a farfetched journey, she stumbles across a clue that leads her to the extraordinary story of the tiger's wife.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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