Ed's Reviews > The Tiger's Wife

The Tiger's Wife by Téa Obreht
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's review
Feb 17, 2012

liked it
bookshelves: 2012, 3-and-a-half-stars, debut-novel, new-author-to-me, read-on-kindle, tournament-of-books-2012, historical-fiction, magical-realism
Read from February 09 to 16, 2012

There are so many things that I really loved about Tea Obreht's The Tiger's Wife, but others that I didn't like very much, including aspects of some of those same things I loved. But it is safe to say that Obreht, in her debut novel, has created something unlike you have ever read before.

It is a novel of three stories all set in an unnamed worn-torn country (though a glance at Obreht's bio or an educated guess will take you to - take your pick - Yugoslavia, the Balkans, Serbia, Croatia, etc.): a modern-day-ish (1990s?) tale of young female doctor dealing with the death of her grandfather and two folkloric myths/tales of the grandfather's past -- the deathless man and (spoiler alert) the tiger's wife.

Often the tricky part with novels with multiple narratives is the competition between them, and such is the case here. While the current day storyline has its compelling parts, particularly the grandchild-grandparent relationship which is beautifully captured here (particularly if you've been fortunate it enough to experience it for yourself), it just lacks the oomph! of the other magical tales (and even among those two, I'd give a marked edge to the deathless man over the the title character).

But even in these wonderful fables, Obreht gets a bit too unfocused and overly detailed (sounds contradictory, I know) for my taste. Readers dive deeper and deeper into story-lines and supporting players where honestly, or editorially, I am not sure they really needed to go. And again, some of these detours worked better than others. This embellishment/bloat glazed me over at times and I just was left with an overall feeling that things could have been tightened up.

Ratings-wise, a no-qualms 3.5 stars, but the rounding for Goodreads has me truly befuddled. There is an awful lot to like in this impressive debut, particularly for an author so young (26 years old at publication date - egads!). Likewise, there is an ambitious nature to it. I'd rather read a book that swings for the fences, even it results in some misses or whiffs. Ultimately, I just didn't feel it was all there -- the proverbial parts being greater than the whole, so a wobbly round-down to 3 stars. But ask me again tomorrow!
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