For most of the time I was reading this book, I wasn't sure what to make of it. Then, towards the end, I understood. For me, The Tiger's Wife
is about death and, in turn, about life.
There are three narrative strands, which are linked through the character of Natalia's grandfather: the present day, where Natalia has just learnt of her grandfather's death and is delivering vaccines to an orphanage; the story of the deathless man; and the story of the tiger's wife. At first, I got irritated at the fact the narrative switched around every chapter, but, by the end, they pulled together into one cohesive whole, and why Obreht wrote how she wrote made perfect sense.
On several occasions, there were references to events in one narrative that had happened in another, but these references were never explicit. Obreht left them up to the reader to discover, which meant it was always rather satisfying when I made a connection.
Several times during the story, I found myself moved to tears. Certain sentences even made me have to put the book down and take a breather. One of these occasions was a character making a casual reference to the death of his brother, but, when the wider implications of the event hit me, I couldn't breathe.
Set in a country left unnamed, but usually identified as the wartorn Former Yugoslavia, all three narratives are set against the looming figure of the war. Even when it is not mentioned, it is there, like the spectre of death itself.
Some criticise Obreht for her passages of description, but, though forewarned, I didn't feel bogged down by them at all. They felt like a natural extension of the story and, for all intents and purposes, they display Obreht's passion and talent for writing.
I had to read this book for an Advanced Fictional Writing module at university, and was expecting to hate it (as is often the case for books you have
But, I loved it.
The story of The Tiger's Wife
is one that will stay with me for many years to come.