The Tiger's Wife with a weekend ahead of me. My plan is to read Friday morning, Saturday evening, Sunday morning, Monday morning. I quickly realize by Tuesday (when I am working instead of having a day off) that I have packed the weekend with Boswell activities, from school programming to a library talk to several events and a market. I don't need to tell you about this; it's already well documented in a blog.
The problem is that Téa Obreht's novel is not one you can rush through. I fead it, but I fear I read it closely enough that I can really offer too much to the conversation. At this point, my best hope is that my fellow book clubbers would bring it on.
There wasn't a truly negative voice to be heard, partly because our most negative attendee, who shows up occasionally and has yet to like a selection, but it was certainly a story that benefitted from a little discussion. Natalia is a young doctor, travelling with her friend Zóra, both on a mission to inoculate orphans in the Balkans (in a place where the border moved, and is thus now out of the country), who learns that her grandfather, also a doctor, has died.
Woven into the story are two stories of a more fantastic nature. The first is about the deathless man, who can be drowned or shot at or any number of things without long-term affect. He also meets folks for coffee before mass killings (not that unusual in Balkan history). And the second is of the tiger, first escaped from the zoo, who roams the village and winds up taking up with a deaf-mute woman.
In a sense. the structure of the story reminded me a bit of another book club selection, Rabih Alameddine's The Hakawati. Though that novel took place in Lebanon, it was also before and after a conflict, and a dying patriarch's story was interspersed with a mythical tale and another of historical legend. As one attendee noted, it is pretty rare for us to read a straightfoward narrative in the club; we've either got multiple narratives or chopped up structures. Anything to keep us on our toes.
The Arabian Nights are also called to mind. Judy also noted a book about dragons, but I left my notes elsewhere. We found a copy of The Jungle Book in the store and brought it out to find some points of reference. Being that it was a very nice package at a very good price of $9.95, Gloria bought it.
In the end, I wish I could have been Suzanne, who read the book twice and planned on a third reading when one of her other book clubs (she's in four of them) reads the book in February. It's the old Brookfield Schwartz group, and they now meet at a community center in Elm Grove, by the way.
PBS Newshour interview is great too.
And here's Mike Fischer's write up of The Tiger's Wife. It's one of his top picks of the year.
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