Tuesday 31 May 2011

Reading ramble: The Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht

The Tiger’s Wife


Tea Obreht
On the one hand, I am left with the feeling that this author can write, and that she can tell a good tale, as she does here with the tales of the Deathless Man, of the Tiger’s Wife of the title, Luka's story, the bear man. On the other I am left feeling that as a story the book as a whole is missing something, that the totality is less than the sum of its parts, that what Obrecht may have been attempting just doesn’t quite come off.

I’d like to do a close read and see if I could make sense of how the history of what is clearly the former Yugoslavia can be found in this books characters and sub stories. Sorobor is clearly Mostrar with its famous old bridge, sadly no more, and the unnamed City must be Belgrade, but I wished it  had been clear. The former Yugoslavia’s factions – Serb, Croat, Moslem, Christian, are also all there. Perhaps how it all fits together is not apparent to me because I don’t know enough about the small details of its disintegration, else its because the ambitious analogy doesn’t work because the thread holding all the individual stories together is not strong enough. Which ever it is, I found myself slogging through the last third of the book, slightly bored by proceedings.

As I said, the author can clearly  write, her potential as a story teller is in no doubt and this is after all her first novel. So whilst I think that in parts it is much better than the other Orange Prize short and long list contenders I have read so far, It is not my favourite read so far (which sadly didn't get shortlisted), although I would not be at all surprised if the judges disagreed with me :)  However, I will make a special note to keep an eye open for next novel and look forward to seeing how she develops her style in the future.

Verdict: author with potential


  1. Well, I see she won the Orange prize, I must get hold of this book and read it too. Good to see your critique of the book as well, sometimes prizewinning books leave me cold and lacking any understanding of how they won but this one looks as though it could be interesting

  2. yes I can see why the judges liked it and am not surprised it won. I really want to read her next novel whenever that comes out as she can surely write. It is a very ambitious novel for a first book and I know I am subconsciously comparing her to the like of Isabel Allende, in particular her "Eva Luna" and "The Stories of Eva Luna" and how the fables are woven into the fabric of another story. Look forward to hearing your thoughts and opinions on it.

  3. I'm less than halfway through the book Sheila. I'm disappointed in the blurry geography and the indistinct ethnic lines. It seems that the obfuscation is deliberate however, that the author is aiming for something folksy and cloudy, like a Balkan Jungle Book. Beautiful language alone has never made it for me.

  4. Kenneth, Like you I disliked not having a clear map although I can see why you think it might be deliberate, but I didn't like that aspect at all