Thursday 19 April 2012

Téa Obreht – The Tiger’s Wife

For some reason, April has been a rather quick month. Checking my blog posts, I realised today with horror that my last entry was 25th March. Aiming to leave somewhere around 1-2 weeks between posts, I hadn’t noticed that now we are at 19th APRIL and I still have 3-4 books that I want to review before April reaches its wet conclusion.

I say wet because, despite the hosepipe ban in the South of England, Newcastle is cold and wet right now. What better excuse to stay inside and work on my blog!

In all honesty I think I read The Tiger’s Wife in February or early March, but I wanted to give it a bit of time to settle in my head, and to see what other friends thought of it. Maybe I’ve now given it a bit too much time, but I’ll try harder next time. The first thing that struck me was the age of its author. She was born in 1985, which is only a year older than me, and yet she wrote this book that won the Orange Prize in 2011. Her photo in my library’s copy of the book is of a cute-faced blonde who really could be any age between 16 and 27.

I feel I have to declare: I like imagination in a book. I enjoyed Garcia Marquez and his craziness; I loved Bulgakow’s The Master and Margarita (interestingly in an amazing stage production at theBarbican last month). The Tiger’s Wife is beautiful in that respect – it tries to show the relationship between humans and animals, and at the centre of this are the wife and the tiger. I don’t want to go into the plot too much, because that actually worked for me. The observations of the villagers and their life in the village are great too. The novel has two or three different strands: the story with the tiger; the modern story of the granddaughter; and the story of the grandfather and the deathless man. For me, these just didn’t quite gel. It felt inexperienced somehow. Maybe this was due to the mixture of time periods. It kept me going right until the end, but I didn’t come away feeling I knew anybody in the story any better. Perhaps it was the mixture of the epic family saga and the short novel form with its fantastical elements.

I would however read other things by Obreht. It has taught me to watch out for her, because if she were to produce a more substantial work, that would be a killer. What did other people think? Was this the right choice forlast year’s Orange?

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