Publisher: Weidenfield & Nicholson
Length: 352 pages
About: Grandfather's death partially explained by escaped tiger
Style: 1st & 3rd person
Where: US and the Balkans
When: 1940s & 1990s
In a Balkan country mending from war, Natalia, a young doctor, is compelled to unravel the mysterious circumstances surrounding her beloved grandfather’s recent death. Searching for clues, she
turns to his worn copy of The Jungle Book and the stories he told her of his encounters over the years with “the deathless man.” But most extraordinary of all is the story her grandfather never told
her—the legend of the tiger’s wife.
Then the tone of her voice changed. She was suspicious, my grandma, of why I wasn’t crying, why I wasn’t hysterical. For the first ten minutes of our conversation, she had probably allowed
herself to believe that my calm was the result of my being in a foreign hospital, on assignment, surrounded, perhaps, by colleagues. She would have challenged me a lot sooner if she had known that I
was hiding in the border-stop bathroom so that Zóra wouldn’t overhear.
She said, “Haven’t you got anything to say?”
“I just don’t know, Bako. Why would he lie about coming to see me?”
“You haven’t asked if it was an accident,” she said. “Why haven’t you asked that? Why haven’t you asked how he died?”
“I didn’t even know he had left home,” I said. “I didn’t know any of this was going on.”
“You’re not crying,” she said.
“Neither are you.”
What makes The Tiger’s Wife so special is that it has nothing to do with the typical immigrant memoir or the thinly disguised autobiographical novel. Obreht, who was seven when she left
Belgrade in 1992 with her mother and her grandparents to escape the wars in Yugoslavia, and who lived both in Cyprus and in Cairo before coming to the US, writes about events in her homeland that she
did not experience firsthand and about a cast of fictional characters. Her novel takes place in an unnamed country in the Balkans, in towns and villages with names that cannot be found on any map and
with geography so confusing that even a native of the region will have a hard time trying to guess where some of the key events are taking place.
The New York Review of Books, Charles Simic, 26th May 2011
Not so good:
Some patches are lavish to the point of being overwritten and Obreht’s images are not always original (the sea flashing “like a knife”). But she is a natural-born storyteller and this is a
startlingly suggestive novel about the dying out of myths and superstitions, and rituals that bind people to places: the retreat of the spirits.
The Daily Telegraph Lucy Daniel 10th March 2011
About the author
Téa Obreht was born in autumn 1985, in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, where she lived with her mother and her maternal grandparents until 1992. When the Yugoslav Wars started, Obreht and her family
moved to Cyprus and later to Cairo, Egypt, guided by her grandfather's job. Her grandparents returned to live in Belgrade in 1997, while she and her mother settled in the United States, first in
Atlanta, and later in Palo Alto, California. Obreht's grandfather died in 2006 and on his deathbed asked her to write under his surname, Obreht.