TV free evenings with The Tiger’s Wife

February 13, 2012 § Leave a comment

I’ve been making a huge effort to turn the TV off lately, and it’s making me feel calm. Last night I sat in bed with my cat friend and read 80 pages of A Dance with Dragons, and it was epic. I’m starting to feel a little disgusted with George R. R. Martin though; how can you be so cruel to your characters?

Over last weekend I read The Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht, to have a break from all the horror. Perhaps a novel about the death of a beloved Grandparent set across the backdrop of the Balkans conflict was not the best choice, but I’m think I’m pretty desensitised after Game of Thrones. I love folk tales and fairy tales, so I knew I was really going to enjoy Obreht’s first novel.

I don’t usually say this, in fact I usually say the opposite, but I think this book should have been longer. It was an epic undertaking, so the novel itself should be an epic. Another 300 pages would have given Obreht more time to flesh out Natalia, as it was I felt she was lost amongst the story she was telling and I didn’t feel a connection with her. The novel felt unfinished, and although I loved the stories with a story, the main narrative strand was drowned by them. I kept reading for the parts about the Tiger’s Wife and the Deathless Man. I loved the clever, subtle little connection Obreht dropped in between them. It was blink and you miss it, but one of those things that marks Obreht out as a great writer. However, although I enjoyed the Tiger’s Wife and the Deathless Man as stand alone stories, I didn’t really see how they connected with the overall plot. I was expecting to find out something about Natalia’s Grandfather, but instead these were just things that had happened to him. Similarly, Natalia’s journey to collect his possessions from the clinic where he died was a bit of an anti-climax. I’m guessing the purpose was for her to discover that his copy of the Jungle Book was missing, therefore confirming the truth of the Deathless Man. It didn’t feel like enough of an ending though, and I finished the book profoundly unsatisfied. The writing was great and Obreht’s imagination is extraodinary, but I wanted more.

I know there’s been some controversy over The Tiger’s Wife winning the Orange Prize. I can’t really comment because I haven’t read any of the other books on the shortlist, but surely we should all be happy to see a young writer succeed rather than debating her worth. Also, she will make excellent use of the prize money and publicity that more established writers are perhaps not in such need of. I genuinely think that Obreht will go on to write many great things, and I’ll definitely look out for her next novel.

It’s been so cold this week, and we even had some snow. I’ve been reading A Dance with Dragons again, but slowly. Somehow I want to make it last forever.

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