Steph's Reviews > The Tiger's Wife

The Tiger's Wife by Téa Obreht
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's review
May 10, 2012

really liked it
Read in May, 2012

Tea Obreht is talented. Did you know that? Now you know, and only because I told you. The Tiger's Wife is an engaging, well-written book, and I loved everything about most of it. The prose is lively, and I like the shifts in tone between Natalia's and her grandfather's narratives. The flirtation with magical realism is done well and with purpose, and I found myself reading the tales of the deathless man with particular enthusiasm.

The narrator is likable, and her relationship with her grandfather is touching, if built in broad strokes. I like a good female protagonist with competence and backbone, and Natalia fits the bill there. I trust that Obreht has a few more books in her head, and I'd like to meet more of her characters. One issue, though - I would have liked to spend more time with Natalia and her grandfather than with the sideshow of minor characters who popped up for their turns under the microscope. Sure the butcher was fine, but the blacksmith? Darisa the Bear? the apothecary? Hard to care.

Spoilers now.

The Tiger's Wife lost a lot of its charm and freshness in the last third, and it fell apart for me in the last thirty or so pages. I don't mind an unresolved ending, but whether an ending ties everything up or tosses it across the room, it has to have a purpose, right? You can't just leave things in a mess because you heard that was the deep, literary thing to do? So a couple issues. The murder of the tiger's wife - what? Uh, why did we care about the apothecary and why did he suddenly decide to murder her? Like, sure, fine, he can murder if he wants, but why rush it and be generally weird and tricky about it? Likewise the man she meets and obviously recognizes and talks to without naming at the end of the book - he is Barba Ivan, no? It didn't seem consistent to withhold his identity unless it was just a finger-wiggling "ooooh it's a mystery" type of thing.

Anyway, then the book ended with this line: "The sound is lonely, and low, and no one hears it anymore." So I stopped being mad at it. I'll probably buy whatever Obreht sells next.

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