THE TIGER'S WIFE by TEA OBREHT.
My grandfather never refers to the tiger's wife by name. His arm is around me and my feet are on the handrail, and my grandfather might say, 'I once knew a girl who loved tigers so much she almost became one herself.' Because I am little, and my love of tigers comes directly from him, I believe he is talking about me, offering me a fairy tale in which I can imagine myself - and will, for years and years.
.......... Outer back cover.
FIRST SENTENCE (Prologue): In my earliest memory, my grandfather is bald as a stone and he takes me to see the tigers.
MEMORABLE MOMENT (Page 243): Back and forth he went through the house, latching and unlatching windows with useless determination, expecting at any moment, to look inside the oven and find Death squatting in it - a man, just a man, a patient-looking winged man with the unmoving eyes of a thief.
MY THOUGHTS: The winner of the Orange Prize for Fiction 2011. Oh dear, I generally don't fair too well with prize winning/nominated books as I generally end up disappointed, finding that all too often the book does not live up to all the hype. Still, my last read, LYRICS ALLEY, was nominated for an Orange Prize, and I enjoyed that.
A wonderful, magical story, I loved the way the author managed to combine folk tales alongside vivid descriptions of a country ravaged by war - quite which country (Croatia? Bosnia?) is not made clear but then I think the author was merely trying to pin-point the horrors of war in general without necessarily mentioning any one country, any one war in particular.
Though mainly dedicated to the story of Natalia and her quest to bring medical care to a rural orphanage, it is Natalia's grandfather's stories that brought the novel alive for me. Poignant and quite beautiful, it is his recollections of the 'Tiger's Wife' along with 'Deathless Man' that kept me reading well into the wee small hours.
A great debut novel from a young author, this is a book all about conflict (much of it religious), ignorance and fear of the unknown but most of all it is a novel about superstitions in general and the superstitions surrounding death in particular.
Highly recommended, it isn't very often that a book moves me to tears but the last paragraph is one of the most beautiful book endings I have ever read.
KEEP IT OR NOT?: A readers group read, though I enjoyed this I will not be buying a copy of my own.