“When your fight has purpose—to free you from something, to interfere on the behalf of an innocent—it has a hope of finality. When the fight is about unraveling—when it is about your name, the places to which your blood is anchored, the attachment of your name to some landmark or event—there is nothing but hate, and the long, slow progression of people who feed on it and are fed it, meticulously, by the ones who come before them. Then the fight is endless, and comes in waves and waves, but always retains its capacity to surprise those who hope against it.”
Winner, Orange Prize 2011
Tea Obreht was the youngest author ever to win the Orange Prize. She certainly has stormed onto the literary scene. I was anxious to read the Tiger’s Wife to see if it lived up to the hype. Many times I don’t enjoy a book very much when everyone is talking about it, which is why I try to avoid reviews until I’ve read it because of potential spoilers. But it’s hard not to notice when a book is winning or being nominated for several book awards.
Set in a generic province in and around Yugoslavia, the book alternates between Natalia’s life and that of her grandfather’s, with, of course, some intermingling of the two. They are both physicians, and both timelines are times of war in the region. One aspect of the novel is that I guess you could say it has elements of magical realism, something I’m not really a fan of normally. I enjoyed it with this book, though, because it also had a folktale-ish feel to it as well.
Throughout the novel, there is no coherent timeline at all, it’s all over the place. At first this bothered me but then I realized I didn’t care. The stories were magnificent. It almost felt like a group of interconnected short stories, though they weren’t told chronologically.
My favorite Orange winner so far is Bel Canto by Ann Patchett, and no, this novel did not surpass it. But, Obreht is so young; she has years ahead of her to finetune and hone her craft. I will look forward to whatever she writes next.
2011, 338 pp.