Anne's Reviews > The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival

The Tiger by John Vaillant
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's review
Dec 09, 11

Read from June 20 to December 08, 2011

Utterly fascinating from beginning to end, a story about a tiger seeking revenge, a hunter who becomes the hunted, and so much more. I felt enormous sympathy for these beautiful, charismatic animals that are poached to the point of near extinction in the Russian Far East. I also felt sympathy for the desperate people trying to survive in this isolated and frigid area. There are no easy answers for figuring out humans and tigers can continue to co-exist here, but as a field coordinator for the Siberian Tiger Project says, "For tigers to exist, we have to want them to exist." Unless, as humans, we consciously work to protect them, they will disappear forever.

Valliant is a brilliant writer. His description of a tiger's deadliness is chilling: "(the) claw is needle-sharp at the end, and bladed along a portion of its inside length. With the exception of a snake's fang, it is about as close to a surgical tool as one can find in nature. When extended, the claws of the forepaw become slashing blades with the result that the victim is not so much sliced as flayed."

And his description of the beauty of a Siberian tiger is breathtaking: "Finally, emblazon this beast with a primordial calligraphy: black brushstrokes on a field of russet and cream, and wonder at our strange fortune to coexist with such a creature. (The tiger is, literally, tattooed: if you were to shave one bald, its stripes would still be visible, integral to its skin.)"

I also appreciated the context of trying to maintain conservation projects for tigers in the aftermath of the disintegration of the Soviet Union. I was prepared to be depressed and distressed at the end of this book, thinking about the bleak future for these creatures, but Valliant ends on a surprising, cautiously optimistic note.

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