The Tiger’s Wife is a truly marvelous book, combining amazing storytelling with remarkable writing, AND it does not rely on crude or explicit scenes to advance the plot. I always find that combination tremendously refreshing.
The novel is set in the Balkans, where the author was born, and gives great insight into the history and cultures of that region. I always find it easier to understand history when I read about how a character experiences it. In addition to the political and social history, I also think The Tiger’s Wife imparts the flavor of the culture and belief systems of the region. The story weaves in descriptions of the legends and tales and superstitions of the area, even as it is itself constructed into a legend of the same form. Pulling that off in writing is a lot harder than it looks to a reader, I think, and I was impressed with the way that Tea Obrecht crafted her story.
Part fable and part present narrative, the book follows a young woman as she traces her grandfather’s story in an effort to understand her own. I loved the grandfather/granddaughter dynamic and the insight into how individuals operate within and are influenced by their families. I also appreciated the theme of conflicts between nature and society, between tradition and innovation, and between national identities and personal attachments. The many themes and issues raised would make this a great book for a book club to discuss.
The New Yorker named Obrecht one of the top 20 authors under age 40, and The National Book Award Foundation named her book as one of the top five authors under 35. Both commendations are well deserved and I’m looking forward to future books by this author.
I’m adding The Tiger’s Wife to my top books of 2011 list, and I would heartily recommend it to you.
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