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Tiger's Wife (Obreht) - Book Reviews

Book Reviews
Ms. Obreht…writes with remarkable authority and eloquence, and she demonstrates an uncommon ability to move seamlessly between the gritty realm of the real and the more primary-colored world of the fable. It's not so much magical realism in the tradition of Gabriel Garcia Marquez or Gunter Grass as it is an extraordinarily limber exploration of allegory and myth making and the ways in which narratives (be they superstitions, cultural beliefs or supernatural legends) reveal—and reflect back—the identities of individuals and communities: their dreams, fears, sympathies and hatreds…Ms. Obreht has not only made a precocious debut, but she has also written a richly textured and searing novel.
Michiko Kakutani - New York Times


Ingeniously, Obreht juxtaposes [her protagonist’s] matter-of-fact narration with contemporary folk tales that are as simple, enthralling, and sometimes brutal as fables by Kipling or Dinesen…Filled with astonishing immediacy and presence, fleshed out with detail that seems firsthand, The Tiger’s Wife is all the more remarkable for being a product not of observation but imagination.... Arrestingly, Obreht shows that you don’t have to go back centuries to find history transformed into myth; the process can occur within a lifetime is a gifted observer is on hand to record it.
Lisl Shillinger - New York Times Book Review


Tea Obreht's swirling first novel…draws us beneath the clotted tragedies in the Balkans to deliver the kind of truth that histories can't touch. Born in Belgrade in 1985…she captures the thirst for consecration that a century of war has left in that bloody part of the world. It's a novel of enormous ambitions that manages in its modest length to contain the conflicts between Christians and Muslims, Turks and Ottomans, science and superstition.
Ron Charles - Washington Post


Tea Obreht’s The Tiger’s Wife comes freighted with more critical anticipation than any debut novel in recent memory…That sort of unearned, pre-emptive prestige spurs both impossible expectations and skeptical readings – a burden that would doom most first novels Yet The Tiger’s Wife, in its solemn beauty and unerring execution, fully justifies the accolades that Ms. Obreht’s short fiction inspired. She has a talent for subtle plotting that eludes most writers twice her age, and her descriptive powers suggest a kind of channeled genius. No novel this year has seemed more likely to disappoint; no novel has been more satisfying.
Wall Street Journal


So rich with themes of love, legends and mortality that every novel that comes after it this year is in peril of falling short in comparison with its uncanny beauty…Not since Zadie Smith has a young writer arrived with such power and grace... [An] astounding debut novel.
Time


(Starred review.) The sometimes crushing power of myth, story, and memory is explored in the brilliant debut of Obreht, the youngest of the New Yorker's 20-under-40. Natalia Stefanovi, a doctor living (and, in between suspensions, practicing) in an unnamed country that's a ringer for Obreht's native Croatia, crosses the border in search of answers about the death of her beloved grandfather, who raised her on tales from the village he grew up in, and where, following German bombardment in 1941, a tiger escaped from the zoo in a nearby city and befriended a mysterious deaf-mute woman. The evolving story of the tiger's wife, as the deaf-mute becomes known, forms one of three strands that sustain the novel, the other two being Natalia's efforts to care for orphans and a wayward family who, to lift a curse, are searching for the bones of a long-dead relative; and several of her grandfather's stories about Gavran Gaile, the deathless man, whose appearances coincide with catastrophe and who may hold the key to all the stories that ensnare Natalia. Obreht is an expert at depicting history through aftermath, people through the love they inspire, and place through the stories that endure; the reflected world she creates is both immediately recognizable and a legend in its own right. Obreht is talented far beyond her years, and her unsentimental faith in language, dream, and memory is a pleasure.
Publishers Weekly


In the torn-up Balkans, as medic Natalia is preparing to cross what was once not a border to help vaccinate orphans, she learns that her distinguished physician grandfather has died in an obscure clinic not far from where she's going. No one knows what he was doing there, though Natalia does know he was seriously ill. This incident opens up Obreht's dizzyingly nuanced yet crisp, muscularly written narrative by allowing Natalia to introduce two stories (fables? truth?) that her grandfather related to her. One concerns the "deathless man" her grandfather sometimes encountered, who collected the souls of the dead. The other concerns a tiger that escaped from the zoo during World War II and made its way to the village where her grandfather lived as a boy. Attempts to kill the tiger fail, but the butcher's abused, deaf-mute wife seems mystically connected to the great beast, rousing the villagers' fear and anger. That tiger—and others seen later at the zoo—looms here as a symbol of defiant, struggling hope as the deathless man continues his task.Verdict: Demanding one's full attention, this complex, humbling, and beautifully crafted debut from one of The New Yorker's 20 Under 40 is highly recommended for anyone seriously interested in contemporary fiction.  —Barbara Hoffert
Library Journal


(Starred review.) Not even Obreht’s place on The New Yorker’s current “20 Under 40” list of exceptional writers will prepare readers for the transporting richness and surprise of this gripping novel of legends and loss…[Contains] moments of breathtaking magic, wildness and beauty…Every word, every scene, every thought is blazingly alive in this many-faceted, spellbinding, and rending novel of death, succor, and remembrance.
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