Overlaid with the trauma of the war in the Balkans, The Tiger's wife is the tale of Natalia's Grandfather, a doctor who has met both the deathless man and the tiger’s wife, two characters prominently featured in stories he has related to her over the years. He is the main thread holding the story together, and he is a wonderful, magnetic character. Upon his death, Natalia, who has been the closest to her grandfather, sharing his secrets, pieces his past life together from the memories of his stories, coupled together with facts she discovers from others.
At times, the many colorful characters seem totally disconnected from each other, but as each character’s story is related and explored beautifully, the reader will be surprised to discover what links them together. The supernatural quality of some of the events will keep the reader excited, turning pages and eager to read on until the end, which was not disappointing, but which was surprising.
Natalia weaves her grandfather's past and present together, fluidly, and is a wonderful narrator as well as a wonderfully developed character, herself, in this lovingly told fable. Death, cloaked in magical circumstances, is presented in many varied ways throughout this very creative novel and we are voyeurs watching the different ways in which people try to deal with it.
The deathless man is a recurrent theme and throughout the book the reader will try and solve the mystery of his presence. The tiger’s wife is another of the themes and that too will recur as an enigma, until finally all of the legends and all of the history of all of the characters interconnect and converge, in one coherent magical theme, as we learn about Natalia's grandfather from his boyhood until his death.
The reader of the Tiger's Wife could be on the stage. Her voice is unbelievably expressive, her diction is perfect, and her tone and pace is excellent. I think this book is better when listened to because the emphasis on certain phrases really illuminated every page. The author's prose is almost poetic in its style. The sentences, though complex and compound, are perfectly punctuated and accented to make the comprehension of them quite easy. There is often a tongue in cheek, gentle humor when events are described and Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book is a major theme in the story.
My major problem, because I listened to the tale, was in discerning specific locales and understanding foreign terms and names, for which I had no frame of reference. I do have a hard copy so skimming the pages will solve that problem.