Review: The Tiger’s Wife, by Téa Obreht

In The Tiger’s Wife, Téa Obreht weaves together fantastic tales filled with folklore and a bit of magical realism.  Natalia and Zora are two young doctors, traveling to a remote village to administer vaccinations to local children.  It’s shortly after the dissolution of Yugoslavia, and political/religious tensions are still high.  Just before leaving home, Natalia learns her beloved grandfather passed away while on a journey far from home.  Her grandmother is justifiably distraught.  She was unable to be with her husband at his death, and she doesn’t understand what he was doing in the place where he was found.

Natalia mourns silently; she doesn’t even confide in Zora.  Her grandfather, also a doctor, was clearly a mentor and role model.  As Natalia remembers visits she and her grandfather made to the zoo, she begins retelling stories he passed down to her, mostly about his life and the people of his village. The stories read like folk tales.  The end of one story often led to another, to flesh out a particular character even further.  This put me off at first, because I kept wanting to get back to Natalia, Zora, and the village.  I struggled a bit with the magical realism in stories featuring “the deathless man,” but I persevered and enjoyed them more than I thought I would.

I really wanted to love this book, but in the end I simply liked it.  I spent the first half of the book frustrated, unsure where it was going.  Then I got swept up in one of the stories and thought, “now we’re cooking, I’m really going to like this!”  I found the connections between stories interesting, and became emotionally invested in some of the characters.  Unfortunately, I was unable to hold onto those feelings.  Téa Obreht is clearly a talented writer, and despite my feelings about this book I’m looking forward to watching her career and reading more of her work.

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11 thoughts on “Review: The Tiger’s Wife, by Téa Obreht

    • Exactly, Jill! 3 stars is respectable. I would even recommend it to others, because I think it’s an interesting work and opinions are so varied.

  1. I had a very similar reaction. I even loved parts of it. I also think she’s a genius and will eagerly await her next novel, but I hope I like it more.

    • nomadreader, it’s interesting we had the same reaction even to the point of looking forward to her next book. I don’t often feel that way — if one book doesn’t work for me I’m apprehensive about trying others — but this one is different somehow.

  2. I gave up on this one, but thought you might enjoy it more than I did. It sounds as though we had similar reactions though. Let’s hope her next one is more to our liking 🙂

  3. awwww, I’m bummed you didn’t love it!!! This one just spoke to me…which was odd, in a way, because normally I don’t love the magical stuff…I am eagerly waiting for her next one 🙂

    • I’m bummed too, Wendy! I knew you’d loved it and expected to feel the same way. I’m still wondering what’s wrong with me (LOL).

  4. Pingback: The Tiger’s Wife- Téa Obreht | bookblog76

  5. I loved this book. It’s one of my favourites for the year so far. I love that she is able to be whimsical and light, even amid the bleak backdrop of war.

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