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The Tiger's Wife (2011)

by Téa Obreht

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
4,9693221,825 (3.52)1 / 617
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)
  1. 123
    Life of Pi by Yann Martel (souloftherose)
    souloftherose: Both books contain elements of magical realism and tigers!
  2. 102
    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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» See also 617 mentions

English (319)  Dutch (2)  Danish (1)  German (1)  French (1)  All languages (324)
Showing 1-5 of 319 (next | show all)
Didn't finish. Had the quality of a dream or nightmare, borderless, vague, shifting. ( )
  fromthecomfychair | Oct 4, 2022 |
Complex , moving, meaty story. Folktales interwoven with the surreality of war in the background and a grandfather-granddaughter relationship that ties it all together. Beautifully written and compelling. ( )
  jennybeast | Apr 14, 2022 |
It was ok...
Not the type of book I usually read but it was well written.
There were many stories (or folk tales) and it was hard to keep track of who was who and who said what...so jot things down when you read it. (

Would I read this again? Probably not.

Note: I received this book through a Goodreads giveaway...
I did not like it and will not read it or others by this author. Sorry Téa Obreht, but it was not for me. ( )
  RMPS | Feb 10, 2022 |
This is an old-fashioned sort of tale, the kind where the most important lessons are wrapped deep in layers of metaphor crafted from the stuff of life and myth, logic and superstition, love and betrayal, hope and hopelessness, triumph and tragedy.

In plainest terms, it's the story of a family endeavoring to survive - physically and emotionally - the turmoil of a succession of endless, pointless, brutal civil wars continuously roiling their unnamed Balkan homeland - a conflict whose futility is heartbreakingly captured in this passage from the novel: "When your fight has purpose - to free you from something, to interfere on the behalf of an innocent - it has a hope of finality. When the fight is about unraveling - when it is about your name, the places to which your blood is anchored, the attachment of your name to some landmark or event - there is nothing but hate, and the long, slow progression of people who feed on it and are fed it, meticulously, by the ones who come before them."

The tale of Natalia endeavoring to understand the circumstances of her beloved gandfather's death works as a frame around which to explore the usual themes of grief, acceptance, and closure. But like all the best tales, the most important themes of this story are wrapped up deep, rich, often disturbing metaphor.

The first legend with which the story involves itself - a legend as timeless as storytelling itself - is the tale of an ongoing conversation between the aforementioned grandfather and "the deathless man" (Death). The theme that emerges from these scenes seems to be "the greatest fear is that of uncertainty" - specifically, that to die quickly and unexpectedly is preferable to a lingering death that extends the suffering. Whether you agree or not, it's easy to understand why characters that have lived their lives with the constant uncertainty of war would embrace this notion.

The second metaphor is a myth about a woman, her disappointed and abusive husband, and a viscous tiger. The themes that this tale gradually unfolded tale explores - and specifically the role that superstition, fear, and mistrust play in nurturing brutality and betrayal - is, as before, somewhat callous but also entirely authentic within the context of a country where, within a single lifetime, shifting borders transform neighbors into enemies one day, and then back into neighbors the next.

War is like a tiger, the author would have us understand: though it may sometimes present itself as benign, it is a tragic mistake to forget that its fundamental nature is viscous and disinterested. Similarly, betrayal may be spawned by ignorance, shame, or frustration rather than deliberate evil, but that doesn't make the act of betrayal any less horrific.

While I never did manage to connect with either of the story's ostensible main characters - Natalia or her grandfather - I'm not sure that this represents much of a loss. It's the fickle, pitiless circumstances that the characters find themselves in that breaks your heart here, rather than any specific character. The one scene that will linger for me: Death and the grandfather enjoying a final, glorious supper at graceful old hotel about to be bombed into rubble. Their dinner is being served by a man who is now supposed to be their enemy but who only very recently was a respectable member of the same community. While I'll probably forget all about Natalia and the grandfather in a matter of months, I suspect the senselessness, the absurdity, the nobility, and random horror created by this scene will remain with me for years to come. ( )
  Dorritt | Dec 21, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 319 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (9 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Obreht, Téaprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Abarbanell, BettinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Doeschate, Anke tenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gómez Calvo, IgnacioTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kanmert Sjölander, MolleTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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For Štefan Obreht
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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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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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.

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