January 04, 2012 by PatLeach
I finished it between the holidays, and while I enjoyed reading it, I didn't ever feel "book lust" for it. I've been reflecting on that.
The novel has three basic strands. One is of a contemporary doctor, Natalia, living in an unnamed Balkan country. She and a friend travel to another country to treat orphans of the recent war. Natalia's grandfather recently died, and during her trip she explores the somewhat mysterious circumstances of his death. The other two strands are based on stories her grandfather told her, of a deathless man, and of woman who befriended a tiger that escaped the zoo during World War Two.
I know that I tend to become frustrated with stories told in strands. I usually find one strand compelling, while the others seem like distractions. This is how I felt with "The Tiger's Wife." I wanted to stay with Natalia. The other strands began to seem too big, too distracting. I didn't sense the kind of completion that I craved. I kept waiting for the three strands to come together in a compelling way.
I didn't dislike the book, in fact, I liked it. I just didn't find it as wonderful as others have.
What I enjoyed particularly were Obreht's way with words, and many of the images she creates. For instance, when she was a child, Natalia often walked with her grandfather to the zoo, where they spent time watching the tigers. The story opens with a scene where they witness the tiger turning on a zookeeper who has been careless. The contrast between the warm grandfather with Natalia, and the attacking tiger with the zookeeper, stayed with me through the novel. Who IS the tiger?
I'll recommend this to my friends who enjoy literary novels, who enjoy elements of magical realism, or who have an interest in the Balkan countries. I'll also recommend this as a title with immense book club potential.
Tagged in: fiction, Good Reads, "The Tiger",
March 30, 2011 by PatLeach
I just finished "The Tiger" A True Story of Vengeance and Survival" by John Vaillant in my journey through this year's American Library Association Notable Books list. It's a perfect example of great nonfiction, and perhaps also of a nonfiction book that many fiction readers would enjoy.
On the one hand, it's the story of an Amur tiger in present-day Siberia, a tiger who has taken to attacking men. And now the tiger is being tracked.
On the other hand, it's the story of Siberia, its geography, history, and culture, especially in terms of how the area has changed for wildlife.
And (would that be the third hand?) it's the story of each man touched by the tiger, as well as those men who join together in the hunt.
Vaillant manages to weave all of this together without losing the narrative thread.
I learned a lot about tigers, of course, but also about the interesting cultural crucible that is Siberia. Plenty of native people live there, along with Russians and others. Their various views of the role of people within nature, combined with the recent history of Soviet government, rolled together with an immense nearby Chinese market, have created a place where poaching is common. It is a place where many people have next to nothing, other than their skill at the hunt.
I'll recommend this to my friends who are intrigued by science, who are interested in the environment, who maybe have a particular interest in this part of the world, or who are just up for a fresh way of seeing a place, through the eyes of this remarkable tiger.
Tagged in: Notables, nonfiction, "The Tiger", John Vaillant,