Thursday, 21 April 2011
Orange 2011: Tiger's wife (Obreht)
Thanks to my lovely colleague, who kindly gave me a copy of The tiger's wife as a belated birthday present, I am happy to announce that I have read my way through the entire Orange 2011 longlist. I've made big inroads in previous years, but this is a first for me.
The book centres around Nathalia, a young doctor, who has travelled to the Balkans to vaccinate war orphans. Her travels are interrupted when her grandfather dies, under what seem to be mysterious circumstances and the book follows her journey exploring her grandfather's life and death. This sounds straightforward, but the book is anything but. Superstitution and folklore abound in this tale, such as The Forty Days of the Soul, which is the encouraging of the soul to return on the morning after death with a sign to show forgiveness to those left behind. Nathalia recalls her grandfather's stories which feature colourful characters: The Tiger's wife (an old deaf-mute lady) and The deathless man (a man who amazingly cheats death, appearing first at his funeral where he asks to be let out of his coffin) - in a hope that these will shed light on his life.
Even though this wasn't one of my favourites from the list, I can easily see why it has made the shortlist. The multi-layered story, the original ideas, and the beautiful writing work together to form an excellent book. It's the sort of book that makes you think, and thus plays on your mind both whilst reading it (I mean in between when you are actually reading it) and after it, as you try to piece it all together. I can't even get my head around how you write a book that is so complex.
So that's very much it for Orange 2011. I make no predictions as to the eventual winner, although will be fascinated to see the outcome. I've really enjoyed acquainting myself with some fantastic new female writing, and may even resurrect my Orange Wednesdays series, where I read titles from the Orange longlist backlists which proved hugely enjoyable for me and popular with my blog readers last year.