Book Quote Friday: The Tiger's Wife

Readers, I am sick. Not in a twisted or Dostoevsky-type way, just in a head cold, rooted to the sofa-eque fashion. My sneezes are violent enough to scare off Tolstoy (my cat, obv.) and right now my cough is definitely worse than my feeble little bite.

All of this is unfortunate for Tea Obreht, author of this week's Book Quote Friday book, The Tiger's Wife, as the attention that I wanted to commit to talking about this wonderful, wonderful book is currently being occupied by my search for more tissues and increasingly overwhelming desire to just go back to sleep.

So I will be brief:

  • I loved this book. Hand-on-heart, glad-that-she'd-taken-the-time-to-write-it-instead-of-playing-Super-Mario-Galaxy-or-joining-the Peace-Corps LOVED it. It made me quite proud in a way, that in the mess that is our world, someone realised they had a talent and a love for something and then audaciously sat down and used it.
  • The language is delicious: rich, lightly used and fiercely illustrative. It reminded me a little of intricate tapestry work. It's also quite translucent: it lets in a lot of colour and light and always makes you wonder what's just behind it - what greater significance does this have, for instance, or how does this relate to Yugoslavian history in some wider way? The texture of it reminded me of brocade and velvet in a smokey low light.
  • I enjoyed the realist folk tale telling of it. It reminded me of Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian in parts, as large parts of it are told in a similar academic-delves-into-folk-and-supernatural-history type way. That's a book I loved too.
  • I am excited about Tea Obreht's career from this point.
  • Believe the hype. She's great and she deserved the Orange Prize for this book. 
  • I think that's all for now, except the quote: .... *snore* *sneeze* *cough*

     For a while, there was no trace of the tiger. They almost managed to convince themselves that it had all been a joke, that Vladisa had seen a personal ghost of some kind, or perhaps had some kind of seizure up there in the mountains; that the stag had been dispatched by a bear or a wolf. But the village dogs - sheepdogs and boarhounds, thick-coated hunting dogs with yellow eyes who belonged to everybody and  nobody at once - knew for certain that he was up there, and reminded the village. The dogs could smell him, the big-cat stink of him, and it drove them crazy. They were restless, and bayed at him and pulled at their tethers. They filled the night with a hollow sound, and the villagers, swaddled in their nightshirts and woolen socks, shook in their beds and slept fitfully.
     But my grandfather still walked to the village well every morning, and laid out quail traps every night. It was his responsibility to ensure that he and Mother Vera had something to eat - and, besides, he was hoping, all the time hoping, for a glimpse of the tiger. He carried his brown volume with the picture of Shere Khan everywhere he went; and, while he never went far that particular winter, it must have been tangible, the excitement of a nine-year-old-boy, because it brought him to the attention of the deaf-mute girl.
     She was a girl of about sixteen, who lived on the edge of town in the butcher's house and helped with shop. My grandfather, probably not the most observant boy, had seen her occasionally, on market days and festival days, but he never noticed her with any particular interest until, that winter, some days before the Christmas celebration in January, she shyly blocked his path as he was heading to the baker's in the early morning and took his book out of the top pocket of his coat, where he had kept it since the tiger had come.   
     My grandfather would remember the girl all his life. He would remember her dark hair and large eyes, interested, expressive eyes, and he would remember the cleft in her chin when she smiled as she opened the book to the dog-eared page with Shere Khan. My grandfather had his gray woolen cap down around his ears, and in the muted hush of his own head, he heard himself say: "That's what the tiger's looks like." And he pointed to the mountain above the smoking chimneys of the village.

I have just one question from this passage though: Christmas celebrations in January? Huh?


  1. I loved this book too. Except that now I have to change the name of my main character in my WIP. (I have a multi-generational novel, partially set in Eastern Europe, where the main character is named Natalia. Natalia will now be known as Natasha. Sigh.)

    I guess that's a Twelve Days of Christmas thing. Isn't Twelfth Night January 5th?

    Hope you feel better!

  2. Ah, of course. How silly of me.

    Natasha's also an excellent name - how is WIP going? My WIP protag. is called Ekaterina, by the by... :)

  3. Thx for bringing this book to my attention:)

  4. Noted the historian.


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