Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Tiger's Wife and The Missing Person

Read these two books recently. Here is my take.

The Tiger's Wife By Te'a Obreht
(The apostrophe should be above the e and I am not sure how to do that so I added it after..)

Literally an aphrodisiac for the nostalgic minded, this book is a fun read. It is full of folk tales effortlessly woven into the story fabric. Set in an unnamed Yugoslavian province, the story spans over many wars, both internal and external with indirect references which the author seems to be quite good at! I love reading good first books because a lot of the time it will be the story they'd been waiting to tell their entire life and has the most depth and vivid characters. There is some disagreement on the authenticity of the Balkan terms used but for those to whom this is transparent, it does not make a difference on the read.

The narrator is a young doctor and the stories are of her life with the maternal grandfather who was also a doc.
She travels through many time periods while narrating, mainly following her Grandfather's footsteps all the way to his childhood village of Galina. The Tiger was a real tiger that escaped from a zoo and blundered into the forests surrounding Galina. Grandfather was the one who identified the strange animal to the villagers as Sherekhan from his Junglebook illustrations. A book that he kept with him all his life and therefore very familiar to the narrator.

The deathless man is my favorite character and I believe Obreht has an amazingly controlled handle on this tricky player in relation to the story. Realism and fantasy is mixed so well that the boundaries are rather vague here. If you like waxing in a general nostalgic feel this book is for you.

The Missing Person By Alix Ohlin

The book has certain redeeming qualities that makes it a good addition here. It is about a New York Grad student from Albuquerque returning home in search of her brother who seems to have taken up with a group of radical environmentalists. In the process of finding him she almost becomes one of them. Then there is the little matter of her research subject of American women painters of the 1970s that brings up some interesting discussions on paintings that always appeals to me.Ohlin has done a fair job and I like what she has to say here. If you want to write that book, go for it and not be afraid of bad first drafts.

I am finding anew that reading is very subjective. What appeals to one person may not appeal to another.
That is where classics come in I guess where the book and its story is essentially timeless. Both of today's
books may not become classics but have the potential to be of great appeal to one reader or another.