I picked this one up at random in Glasgow Waterstones, back when I was working up there and had little better to do with my evenings than potter around bookshops on their late opening night (Thursday, I think). Emblazoned on the front is that it’s the winner of the Orange Prize for Fiction for 2011, which I don’t really approve of, but evidently I didn’t let that put me off. Since then, I’ve had numerous positive comments about it so I decided to skip it up my ‘to read’ list and give it a whirl.
The author biography is faintly depressing. Téa is the same age as me and already winning literary prizes, while I’m doing nothing more interesting than posting on this blog. That should be a call to arms, right? Maybe next week..
But anyways, the book. The Tiger’s Wife is the story of both Natalia and her grandfather, at different points in their lives, and also of the deathless man and the eponymous tiger’s wife. One of the striking parts of the novel is how these different threads are woven together but it’s all made to seem natural - the ending might seem contrived in the hands of a lesser writer but here it’s perfect. Until the end, I’dve been hard pushed to tell you exactly what the plot was, but once it all comes together it makes sense.
It’s set in the former Yugoslavia, both before and after the wars which broke the entity up into its constituent parts. Where exactly we are isn’t named and is probably at least fictionalised - and yes, I did look up some of the place names on Wikipedia before working this out!! - but the air of mistrust across the border line between two unnamed but brand new republics is just the same. I found it fascinating to get an insight into the process of breaking up a country and its aftermath, and sad to see the sundering of communities who prior to this were close. It’s hard to imagine living through this but Téa brings me as close as I hope I’ll ever get.
I found the writing compelling, and what seemed somewhat lacking in plot at the beginning came together and gathered pace, until the end of the novel I was ripping through the pages in an attempt to find out what happened next. My one complaint if I had one would be that parts of the story are lacking in depth; I would have liked more back story regarding the tiger and his wife, and other elements of the story would have benefitted from this as well. But overall this is a great first novel and I’ll definitely be looking out for more of her work.