I must admit I had my doubts about this book - not necessarily about the greatness of the writing - more about it not really being "my type" of book. But, this book was for me a perfect example of why I should constantly try and stretch my reading - because the reward is finding absolute gems like The Tiger's Wife.
The Tiger's Wife is the first novel by Yugoslavian/American writer Tea Obreht who is making a lot of news in the publishing world and is already receiving huge accolades for her work. I am greatly looking forward to hearing her speak at the upcoming Sydney Writers' Festival.
The book is written through a series of stories, almost myths, that have been told to the main character, Natalia by her grandfather as she was growing up. The stories come from her grandfather's childhood and beyond and the stories form a bond between the two that carries on into Natalia's adulthood. As an adult Natalia has become a doctor (just like her grandfather) in an unnamed Balkan country and it is on a trip into a small village to provide immunisations to orphan children that Natalia learns of the death of her grandfather in a neighbouring village. It is the news of his death that prompts Natalia into remembering the stories he has passed down to her and connecting her to his death and the journey she must now take to retrieve his belongings.
For me this book was like reading one huge fairytale/children's story/mythical tale - but in a very adult and sophisticated way. I was initially turned off reading this book by mention of the term "magical realism" but I felt as though The Tiger's Wife was very much grounded in reality - even though some parts of the story do seem to come from a mythical and magical place. I believed very much in the characters and the events taking place and this is what made the book work for me.
The writing was brilliant - this woman knows how to engage an audience and tell a story.
My heart was wanting Great House to win The Orange Prize but now I am not so sure...