The tigers wife by Tea Obreht

Source – review copy (requested by me)

Well I very rarely want get caught up in Hype books but read about this book and it writer Tea Obreht made me .Tea was born in Former Yugoslavia,lived there til she was 7 the in cyprus and Egypt .Before settling with her family in the us were eventually she took  a  MA  in creative writing at Cornell university ,she is teaching there now this is her first novel .I was amazed that someone so young could write a book that by the blurb seems to have been written by some one that is older .

Well what is the tigers wife about ,its set in Yugoslavia ,it is about a grandfather and his granddaughter Natalia ,her grandfather has disappears she is away doing vaccination in a distant town ,  so she rushes off and decides to find him .Whilst doing this we discover her childhood and the fact he always carried a volume of Rudyard Kipling’s the Jungle book and told the young  Natalia  ,stories from this book which he loved .This reminded me of my friend Rob of Rob Around books and his hunt for a book that can be a constant companion to the reader ,rob found this in part with the Essays of Michel de Montaigne ,also in the book the english patient the main character count Alamsy  has a copy of histories by Herodotus that he has loved and kept things in ,so here the grandfather had enchanted his young grand-daughter with tales from Jungle book mixed with local history like the tale of the tigers wife of the title of the book a tale of a mysterious silent women from the second world war ,also the man she thing her grandfather is looking for the deathless man ,a man who has lived forever and wanders the backlands where her grandfather lives .There is also tale of the tiger that escaped from the zoo during the war ,that enthralled her grandfather as it seemed th book he ;loved had come to life .to find out what happens to Natalia and her grandfather you better read the book .

Everything necessary to understand my grandfather lies between the two stories : the story of the tiger’s wife and the story of the deathless man .These stories run like  secret rivers through all the other stories of his life – of my grandfathers days in the army ; his great love for my grandmother ; the years he spent as a surgeon and a tyrant of the university .One ,which i learned after his death ,is story of how my grandfather became a man ,the other which told to me ,is of how he became a child again .

opening of the second chapter .

This book is filled with love ,it is a story of generations ,of Tea’s homeland the Balkans .We get a heady mix of folkish tales and magic realism .I find hard and disheartening that this is a book written by a 25-year-old if you didn’t know you would think it was a much older writer ,it has echos of a lot of great books a bit of the English patient ,a bit of  life of pi and maybe some magic realism of marquez and Okri .I m happy I asked for this book does it live up to the Hype yes it does .If your at Hay festival Tea is there talikg about this book .

May 2011


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