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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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3,2872551,665 (3.54)1 / 536
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)

  1. 113
    Life of Pi by Yann Martel (souloftherose)
    souloftherose: Both books contain elements of magical realism and tigers!
  2. 92
    The Jungle Books by Rudyard Kipling (souloftherose)
    souloftherose: The Jungle Book is the book Natalia's grandfather loves in The Tiger's Wife and features Shere Khan, the tiger.
  3. 61
    The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri (Anonymous user)
  4. 00
    Gingerbread by Robert Dinsdale (avatiakh)
  5. 00
    Ingrid and the Wolf by André Alexis (Anonymous user)
  6. 11
    The Ministry of Special Cases by Nathan Englander (Anonymous user)
  7. 00
    Keturah and Lord Death by Martine Leavitt (Anonymous user)

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English (258)  Dutch (1)  Danish (1)  French (1)  German (1)  All languages (262)
Showing 1-5 of 258 (next | show all)
My dear sister got me this to read in the hospital and although I only got through one chapter there, I quite enjoyed this one. Natalia’s grandfather has just died in a remote village (presumable in Yugoslavia?) while she is also journeying to a remote village. We follow her story while being presented with fables her grandfather told her which illuminate his life as well as the lives of ancillary characters. The language is beautiful – particularly for a debut novel – and there’s a magical realism bent to the novel that I enjoyed. I see a lot of somewhat negative reviews about the story line being confusing, but I found it to just be a little loose in the narrative but strong on language and atmosphere. ( )
  janemarieprice | Sep 22, 2015 |
Téa Obreht's debut novel was a National Book Award finalist and British Orange Prize for Fiction winner.

It's a braided narrative, with all the stories set in an unnamed Balkan country (Obreht was born in the former Yugoslavia).  One story is set (more or less) in the present, just after the various Yugoslav Wars.  Natalia is a doctor on her way to a coastal orphanage with her friend Zora to vaccinate the children there.  While traveling, she learns that her beloved grandfather has died under mysterious circumstances.

The other two threads in the narrative braid are folkloric tales of magical realism that her grandfather, also a doctor, used to tell Natalia.  One involves his encounters over the years with a "deathless man," who cannot die himself, but comes when others are about to die.  The other dates back to his childhood in a remote village and the interesting characters there, including Darisa the Bear, a taxidermist and hunter; an unnamed apothecary; Luka the butcher; and Luka's deaf-mute wife - called "the tiger's wife" because she befriends a tiger lurking near the village that escaped from a city zoo.  All of these people have their own back stories, which Obreht relates in the novel as well.

This book has some interesting things to say about death, war, superstition, deceit, and fear. See my review at Bookin' It for details.

Obreht writes well.  I hope she isn't a one-hit wonder.

© Amanda Pape - 2015

[This book was borrowed from and returned to my local public library.] ( )
1 vote riofriotex | Aug 30, 2015 |
A novel with writing so well crafted it’s humbling, and with so much wisdom you forget how young this author was when she authored it. Sure, it could have used more story architecture. But with prose like this, I’d forgive almost anything. ( )
  DavidPaulKuhn | Jul 9, 2015 |
Parts of this book were difficult to read, but it was well written. Because I know so little about this war torn area, it is hard to imagine, but Obreht does a wonderful job in bringing it to reality. ( )
  jenngv | Jun 25, 2015 |
I found this book disappointingly arid and over written. And I do enjoy magic realism - but this never really takes off into the world of fantasy and the imagination. It may be because the 'real' world isn't strongly enough depicted - we are in a country which is presumably Yugoslavia, but a coy determination not to name this means that the civil war feels ungrounded, and so the folk tales and the magic do not fly from a fully realised world.
  otterley | Jun 21, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 258 (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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