Wednesday, March 09, 2011

2011 book 64

Tea Obreht's The Tiger's Wife
When you read something that's been hyped for like a year before it was even published (or whenever it was Obreht made the New Yorker list of awesome writers under 40), you never know if it'll actually be THAT good. But all the early reviews were positive (actually, I saw one review, in the New York Observer, that disparagingly noted this book reads like YA due to Obreht's youth--I'm sure you can imagine the problems I had with that one) and so I went for it--and was not disappointed. The book isn't perfect--few are--but it's really, really good.

Obreht weaves the story of a young doctor after a war in Central Europe (it's never explicitly labeled as Yugoslavia, but the history and the references to divisions make it pretty clear anyway) who's on her way to give medical care to orphans when she finds out her adored grandfather has died. While she's struggling to deal with that--and with other unexpected complications--she reflects on the two strange stories of her grandfather's life--the story of the deathless man, and the story of the tiger's wife (which must have been excerpted in the New Yorker at some point, because it was very familiar), all of which leads the reader to reflect on the damage caused by war. Obreht cleverly works these disparate elements into a solid story, one that will make every young woman (and man) long for her own beloved grandfather (maybe that's just me). Oh my goodness, so many parenthetical notations. Solid story, great writing, and great look at post-war Yugoslavia (something I haven't seen much of in literature lately). A.

ETA: I completely agree with this NYT review, which states my feelings much more eloquently than I usually manage.

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