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Book Talk
Excerpts from March Book Talk – Tiger’s Wife
April 28, 2012
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On Booktalk, we read Tea Obreht’s Tiger’s Wife in the month of March. This tale of a grandfather and a granddaughter  set against the ever shifting  contours of the Balkans is as much a history of a region as also a poignant portrayal of a changing relationship. The enigmatic title eludes and teases us throughout the story. A work of magic realism at some level, everything in the story transcends time and space and seems to become a symbol for so much more.

In our attempt to understand the book better, everyone’s ideas and opinions were shared on the booktalk forum.  Here are some excerpts which reflect our changing moods and opinions as we progressed through the story:
SANDHYA
I am also enjoying The Tiger’s Wife… some bits more than others. But yes, as you say, there is a fluidity about the writing, and I love the descriptions. It’s not spectacular or even dramatic, nor is it ‘simple’ … I know I am not being particularly articulate, but there is a sense of the mood that used to be in some Russian novels…
I am struck by the way the story of the tiger is juxtaposed, and the way The Jungle Book comes to enjoy centre stage… such a sense of connections, isn’t there?

But the story of the deathless man is intriguing. Is he real? Is he a symbol of unreality amidst the reality of a crumbling nation, divided against itself, a sort of escape route…?
Questions, questions…. but I love the descriptions. She is superb with the delicate and detailed way she brings scenes alive. The little boy chasing into the night to go into the smoking room, the way she describes how he puts out his hand to feel the tiger’s rough hairs… brilliant…

SUJATA
There is something in this book; it is still elusive to me. Tea is
brilliant in her ‘never endings’ for now. I have so many questions and Zora
intrigues me.
I like grandfather, I want to know more.

NANDITA
Sorry, I have bad news to report. I am not enjoying the book. I think
that a few bits (so far) are well written (like Natalia’s and
grandfather’s  walk through the night, her visit to Zdrevkov) but for
the most part, I find it dreary and disjointed – it makes me feel too
tired to look for hidden meanings 😉 Really struggling to complete it
and have just crossed Chap 5. I do hope I begin to find some joy,
purpose and meaning in my reading but am committed to keep moving on
with heart steeled.

DEEPAK
Hi have kept silent as I had read the book earlier. Did not want my comments to colour one’s views. But reading Nandita’s comments makes me surmount my diffidence. I too was distinctly underwhelmed by the book. I put it down to my belonging to the wrong gender or my low browness.
Though listening to other comments did encourage me to attempt to give it another try.

KAREN
I finished it yesterday but can’t say I didn’t enjoy it – I did at some
levels. There was a lot I didn’t ‘get’ – like the point of some of the
stories within the story. What I did like was the setting – war, the breakup
of Yugoslavia. It’s the first time I’ve read a novel set in the Balkans and
it made me think how similar we are.folk  lore.superstitions.religion.division.

ANITA
I just reread parts of the book and it’s mindblowing-loved the whole
theme of consciousness-sorry folks am into esoteric and stuff like
conscience-conscious et al.. so bear with me like darisa! I think Tea
O is brilliant as she takes the strands from all over and weaves in
the magic-of all of us linking to the generation before our parents!!

AJITH
I’ve finished reading The Tiger’s Wife  and I loved it. I was absolutely enchanted by the narratives of memory and perception which Obreht manipulates to successfully justify the ‘magic  realism’ in the book. It was the loose ends which I loved the most because  I saw it as her mastery to tell the reader the whole truth but not the
absolute.

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