“‘Having sifted through everything I have heard about the tiger and his wife, I can tell you that this much is fact: in April of 1941, without declaration or warning, the German bombs started falling over the city and did not stop for three days. The tiger did not know that they were bombs…’ A tiger escapes from the local zoo, padding through the ruined streets and onwards, to a ridge above the Balkan village of Galina. His nocturnal visits hold the villagers in a terrified thrall. But for one boy, the tiger is a thing of magic – Shere Khan awoken from the pages of The Jungle Book. Natalia is the granddaughter of that boy. Now a doctor, she is visiting orphanages after another war has devastated the Balkans. On this journey, she receives word of her beloved grandfather’s death, far from their home, in circumstances shrouded in mystery. From fragments of stories her grandfather told her as a child, Natalia realises he may have died searching for ‘the deathless man’, a vagabond who was said to be immortal. Struggling to understand why a man of science would undertake such a quest, she stumbles upon a clue that will lead her to a tattered copy of The Jungle Book, and then to the extraordinary story of the tiger’s wife.”
What I thought:
I wanted to like this book; I wanted to love it. I picked it up having seen mixed reviews but also being certain that it had all the ingredients for a book that I would not only enjoy but also leave a lasting impression on me. The opening chapter was wonderful and I settled down with my book looking forward to what was to come. I am disappointed then to report that I ended up abandoning this book about 3/4 of the way in as I found it becoming more and more of a struggle to keep picking it up and as a result it was taking me an age to read.
The first chapter tells of a young girl, Natalia, and her grangfather at one of their weekly visits to the zoo to see the tigers in an unamed Balkan country. I found this chapter enchanting and the relationship between the pair hinted at a strong bond and of secrets shared. However, the story then flipped twenty years forward when Natalia is a young doctor and finds out that her beloved grandfather has passed away, apparantly on his way to see her. I never felt engaged with Natalia – I didn’t warm to her or her story; she never felt three-dimensional to me.
Woven into the main body of the story are tales that her grandfather has told her during his life. One is about a Deathless Man (who is able to predict the deaths of others but can’t die himself) and the other is of the Tiger’s Wife. One of the reasons that I thought I would love this book is that there was a tiger in it: after reading Life of Pi I became obsessed with anything tigerish. The chapter where the tiger escapes from a bombed out zoo and makes his way north to the countryside and lives on a hill above a tiny village (where the grandfather grew up) is my favourite in the whole book. It is beautifully written and had me rivetted to find out what happened to it after that. Unfortunately with all the tooing and froing with present day and Natalia’s uninteresting story, I grew impatient and bored. I started to find the whole book too slow and the more I put off reading it the more I didn’t want to go back to it.
Have you read it? What did you think?
If anyone has any compelling reasons why I should pick this up again and read to the end, please do tell me – I’m open to all opinions and I don’t want to miss out if getting to the end is really worth it.
(source: I received this book for review from Amazon Vine)