‘The Tiger’s Wife’ by Tea Obreht
A debut novel that won the Orange Prize for fiction, ‘The Tiger’s Wife’ is the story of a doctor, his grand daughter who happens to be a doctor as well and various other characters, mostly from his childhood. Natalia is on her way to an orphanage across the border when she comes to know of her grandfather’s death in an obscure village. As she tries to piece together fragments from her grand father’s life, the author takes us through the lives of some seemingly strange characters – the deathless man, Luka the butcher, the apothecary and the young girl who come to be known as the ‘tiger’s wife.’
The narrative is brilliant, you feel as though you are walking the path with the characters. The reference to ‘The Jungle Book’ is what made me pick the book up, but then I realized that was a mere prop for at least one of the villagers, in this case, the grand father as a boy, to know what the devilish animal was. The story of Luka, how he turned from a soft, almost girlish boy to a terrorizing husband and butcher, was captivating. The apothecary’s story was a little dragging, though. As for the deathless man, I really could not understand what that was all about, maybe I have not reached that stage of mysticism yet.
As one of the reviewers said, this book would have been really enjoyable as a collection of short stories, each separate story was so well woven. As for the ending, did not even realize I had reached there, it was that abrupt. It maybe a contradiction, but in spite of all the disconnects and loose ends, this is a book that I really enjoyed reading. Isn’t that what good story tellers do to you?
Verdict – If you are the kind of person who would enjoy the journey, relishing the sights, the smell and the tastes along the way, not caring about how the destination is going to be or even where it is, go ahead…