Neil's Reviews > The Tiger's Wife

The Tiger's Wife by Téa Obreht
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's review
Mar 21, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: tournament-of-books-2012
Read from April 21 to May 04, 2012

I know squat about Yugoslavia and especially about its geography. And yet, I had no problems getting a strong picture of the incredibly varied settings--wide differences in landscape, and in the same place over decades of time--in The Tiger's Wife. Among the books I've read recently, only Salvage the Bones does setting as well, and Obreht gives herself a much bigger challenge in that regard, because she doesn't stay in the same neighborhood or time.

It may seem strange to start a review of The Tiger's Wife with that praise, given how distinctive other features of the novel are: its incredible balancing of realism and the fantastic or mythic, most notably, or how energy and hope spring forth from what should be a litany of misery if one just recounted the facts of the plot.

I focus on the setting because all the ambitious ideas in this book could spiral out of control--and do, for some readers, I see--but for me, they coalesced into a feeling that I was getting a strong sense of the unique character of a now-divided country. The moments when the intertwined stories intersect are especially rewarding.

So yes, come for the deathless man and the tiger, but stay for the feeling of being immersed in another culture--unfamiliar but with a logic of its own that feels coherent, even if I would never claim that I could explain or comprehend it.

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