1. The Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht
Even though I’m off to a slow-ish start for this year’s CBR, I absolutely loved my first read. I received The Tiger’s Wife over a year ago as a Christmas present, and brought it with me when I moved, so I might be more motivated to read it. Not even all the way through the first chapter, I was already in love with the book. The story follows Natalia, a young doctor in the present day Balkans, as she goes to a tiny village to administer vaccines. Although I don’t know much about the wars in the former Yugoslavia, the novel is saturated with the imagery of war and its aftereffects.
Through Natalia’s life, Obreht weaves in the story of her grandfather’s life and their relationship, everything connecting, building to make one of the richest and most complex stories I feel I’ve read in a long time. From the beginning, I felt immersed in Natalia’s world, different as it was from my own. Natalia’s life feels surreal and otherworldly – rightfully so. With war interspersed, Natalia grew up going to the zoo every week with her grandfather to admire the tigers. As a young girl, she doesn’t realize the complexity of this weekly visit and the purpose it serves for her grandfather. As a teenager, she outgrows the ritual and grows apart from her grandfather. However when war comes, the family draws closer together, and Natalia learns more about the mystery of her Grandfather’s affinity for the tigers, and about his childhood in a small village.
The mystery and surreal aspects of her grandfather’s life begin to permeate Natalia’s life in the present, as she searches for more answers regarding the mysterious events surrounding his death. The book switches so deftly between past and present, and the story is so tightly knit that I felt so intertwined with the whole atmosphere. This is the first book by the author, but I will happily read anything else she puts out. I can’t really recommend this book enough, and I’m struggling for the right words to describe how much I loved this story. Nonetheless, pick it up – it’s worth the hardback price.