Sunday, 20 November 2016

TBC 20/20 Bloggers Event. Book One. The Tiger's Wife.


 Book ONE  of My Top 20 is The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obrecht

Category - Literary Fiction, Mythology /Folklore.

Synopsis: Natalia a young doctor hears of her beloved Grandfather's passing in a place far from home in the former Yugoslavia and convinced it is connected to the tales she heard at his knee about a Tiger who esacaped the Zoo during the Second World War and the stories of the Deathless Man who is always present when people meet their demise, she embarks on a journey to find out.

My review:

Picking this up purely because it was set in Yugoslavia, the land of my forefathers, I saw it was the winner of the Orange Prize and the premise intrigued me. 

The story of an accomplished modern young woman, learning of her Grandfather's death and  travelling through a landscape still scarred by the war in the Balkans in the 1990s to find out why he died quite so far from home, spoke to me on a very personal level. Her travels are both geographical and fraught and nostalgic and whimsical. 

Having had such a close relationship with my own Grandfather and travelled into rural Croatia to scatter his ashes, the resonance was just too strong to ignore.

My guess is there is no middle ground with this book, you will either love it or hate it. I  very obviously loved it. One  of the complaints levelled against it in reviews  since I returned to it,are the detailed character descriptions of even incidental characters as well as protagonists . To me though learning about the different folk who make up the cast of this epic tale, enriched the the story no end,
 some good, some bad and some are too enigmatic to pigeonhole; the vividness of setting was something I particularly enjoyed and the rustic nature of their existence transported me.

The folklore elements, particularly the Deathless man were beautifully depicted and the brief encounters with him are macabre and bizarre and spoke to the rural stories from Eastern Europe that one associates with the  pre communist age. 

The starving animals in the Zoo and the subsequent escape of the Tiger was a wonderful injection of pathos and symbolic of the fact that casualties of war never actually ultimately end with those holding the weapons and the mirroring of the recent history that Natalia herself  has weathered in the deprivations and brutalities of conflict are also resonant.

I lost myself in this book and found myself thinking about it long after I read the last page.

Why I have put this in my all time top 20?

Simply put it is almost a tribute  written especially to my own Yugoslavian Grandfather who was also a weaver of tremendous tales and a man I wish we had mined more from before we lost him.

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