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War and Fairy Tales   Leave a comment

With so many recent literary references to tigers it’s easy to think
The Tiger’s Wife has something to do with Asia. That’s not the
case with Tea Obreht’s lyrical, engaging debut novel. Instead, she
writes about fear, imagination, survival, and war’s shadow – on an-
other continent altogether.

The title’s namesake and the “deathless man” are told like fairytales
along with the narrator’s, Natalia, desire to know the circumstances
of her much-loved grandfather’s death. These tales also figure promi-
nently in how he lived his life; he was a doctor and survived an earlier
war. It’s his demise that propels Natalia, and even though death is a
constant throughout the book, it is not disheartening.

Natalia, too, is a young physician in a devasted eastern European
country, whose story begins with her memories of going to the zoo
with her grandfather: to see the tigers. Other animals are mentioned,
but the tigers drive their visits. As Natalia grows up, the threat of war
is never far removed, yet she is surprised at her cavalier attitude
toward it. Later, when she treats children orphaned by war, she still
never appears to believe it’s real.

Although, she’s preoccupied with her grandfather’s death, the more
she looks for understanding, the more she explains the myths he shar-
ed. There actually was a tiger and a young girl known as its wife in
the grandfather’s childhood village. By contrast, the deathless man
was known only to the grandfather, and Natalia clearly wants to know
more about both men.

Four Bookmarks
Random House, 2011
338 pages

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Posted February 9, 2012 by bluepagespecial in Books, Reviews, Uncategorized

Tagged with , , , , ,

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