Tag Archives: Tea Obreht

The Tiger’s Wife – Téa Obreht

You could be forgiven for thinking that as it won the Orange Prize on Wednesday I have banged out a review of ‘The Tigers Wife’ by Téa Obreht quick sharp. You would also be half right. I’ve speeded up finally publishing my thoughts about it, which have been rewritten, edited and rewritten and then edited again and again on and off since I finished it. You see myself and this book felt like we had unfinished business and thoughts, not necessarily bad ones, just puzzling ones. But in the name of it winning said prize I thought I should write about it sooner rather than later.

I probably would have wanted to read Téa Obreht’s debut novel at some point regardless of its inclusion on the Orange Prize long and short lists and then winning it because, regardless of the hype of her being claimed a young writer to watch, I like books that are rather magical and ‘fairytale for grown ups’ was one of the things I kept hearing in regard to ‘The Tiger’s Wife’ when it was mentioned. It is also a novel about the country formerly known as Yugoslavia and its break up, a subject which fascinates me. I actually holidayed there as a child and was fascinated by the news as this country was torn apart. So its interesting that while aspects of it were brilliance, overall I was left a tiny bit let down. Let me explain…

For me one of the greatest charms of ‘The Tiger’s Wife’ was the story of the relationship between grandfather and grandchild.  Our narrator, Natalia a doctor, tells us the tale of her grandfather’s life from the memories she has of him and the tales that he told her of his former life after she learns from her grandmother that he has died in mysterious circumstances and after he disappeared telling everyone he was going to see Natalia. It’s the mystery, the fact some of his possessions are missing and the need to understand him that sets Natalia on a mental, rather than physical, journey to work out just who her grandfather was.

“Everything necessary to understand my grandfather lies between two stories: the story of the tiger’s wife, and the story of the deathless man. These stories run like secret rivers through all the other stories of his life – of my grandfather’s days in the army; his great love for my grandmother; the years he spent as a surgeon and a tyrant of the University. One, which I learned after his death, is the story of how my grandfather became a man; the other, which he told to me, is of how he became a child again.”

The thing I loved about the novel also became the thing that I didn’t love so much about it. As the story goes on we are introduced to the myths and fables of her grandfather’s life. Whilst I love these sort of ‘fairytales for adults’, sometimes I was just confused by them. I would read them, like the tale of the deathless man, really enjoy them and yet be left wondering as to their relevance as a whole. In being rather surreal I felt that Téa Obreht lost me in places no matter how enjoyable, funny and magical the mini story which creates the overall story (anyone else getting a bit confused?) was I couldn’t get it to work overall.

“I would be insane to stay here,” he says to me in an exasperated voice. “Any minute now your Hungarian is going to go outside and call the others, and then there will be business with garlic and stakes and things. And even though I cannot die, I have to tell you that I do not enjoy having a tent peg put in my ribs. I’ve had it before, and I do not want it again.”

The same applied to the title character/fable of ‘The Tiger’s Wife’, it was all wonderfully written and inventive but… but… but… something wasn’t quite working for me. It seemed in some ways to be a book made up of many things, yes I know most books are but these things didn’t quite connect. It seemed to want to be a book of myth and of storytelling, a book of war and a book of love – both of the family and a love story in some ways. I thought the way Obreht discussed how the country was fracturing and yet no one initially sensed danger until loved ones went missing was superb. It was only a part of the book though. In some ways there were two books in one. In fact the best way to summarise this novel would be to say that I think the sum of its parts are fantastic, and would have made a great short story collection yet as a body of work it didn’t quite gel in the way I was hoping or maybe even expecting, that could be me more than the book or the author.

That said I did like this novel a lot. I particularly enjoyed the mini-stories, and would happily read a collection of fables should Téa Obreht write one, in fact I am hoping she does. As for the hype around Téa Obreht being one of the finest young authors around, I would agree to an extent. I found the writing in ‘The Tiger’s Wife’ was impressive, funny, dark, honest, and quite compelling in many respects. I just didn’t quite connect with it personally (where emotion is occasionally lacking imagination is certainly in abundance) yet I certainly enjoyed getting lost, and occasionally confused by it. I will definitely read her next novel or collection. 7.5/10

This book was kindly sent by the publisher.

Do I think that ‘The Tiger’s Wife’ should have won the Orange prize? I wouldn’t want to take anything away from Téa Obreht who must be the happiest 25 year old (seriously, though it is a little sickening how young she is, ha) at the moment, plus I wasn’t asked to judge the prize. It’s great to see a young, clearly talented, author celebrated like this too. What do you think? Has anyone else read ‘The Tiger’s Wife’ and what did you make of it? If you haven’t, will you be in the near future, or does the whole hype put you off?

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And The Winner of The Orange Prize 2011 is…

…Well we will know in just a few hours. I think this is the year that I have done the most Orange Reading ever. Sadly it has seemed I suffered a citrus book based burn out and the initial excitement of reading the whole longlist at one point became borderline frustration with having set myself such a task. The thing was though it brought forward some absolute gems, along with a few books I loathed (see this post for more longlist details), and its two of those gems, which I would have missed, that I would be equally overjoyed to see win the prize…

Yes, if Annabel’ by Kathleen Winter or ‘Grace Williams Says It Loud’ by Emma Henderson win (interestingly both debut novels) then I would be very pleased indeed. I have a strange feeling about the latter which niggled and niggled at me when I didn’t include it in my original guessing post, so hence why I put £1 on it at the bookies. I wouldn’t be surprised if any of the other four won, and no not just because they are on the short list, because they are all good in varying ways. Emma Donoghue’s ‘Room’ is the favourite, I wouldn’t be shocked if ‘Great House’ by Nicole Krauss went and did it though, or Aminatta Forna’s ‘Memory of Love’, or ‘The Tiger’s Wife’ by Téa Obreht. Oh is mentioning them all not allowed? I am aware that I still haven’t put all of my longlist and shortlist reviews up. I just got orange’d out (I’m all about Green Carnations at the moment prize-wise) but they will come, I will get round to it. They are all worthy winners… I do have those two favourites though.

Good luck to the six finalists, I will update this post when the announcement has been and gone. Does anyone know what time that might be? Who do you think will win and/or who do you want to win?

Update… The winner was ‘The Tiger’s Wife’ and you can see my thoughts, which are still all over the shop and in need of reigning in, on here soon.

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The Orange Prize Shortlist 2011

So it has been announced and the six short listed titles by the Orange Prize 2011 judges are as follows…

My thoughts? Well I really like the list. Though its not the six I would have chosen, I had three of them in ‘My Orange Shortlist 2011’having read all the books on the long list this year from cover to cover. You will see I predicted ‘Room’ and ‘Great House’ might just make the final six. I am over the moon that ‘Annabel’ is in the mix because I loved that book so, so, so much. I am also really thrilled to see ‘Grace Williams Says It Loud’ by Emma Henderson on the list too, my thoughts on that one very soon, as it was a book that really took hold of me and has grown on me and stayed with me since. They are the two I would most like to see win at the moment, though I have loved all four of the others (for me ‘Swamplandia!’ just had the edge on a modern fairytale over ‘The Tiger’s Wife’ – reviews of both of these coming soon, though I think a little Orange rest is called for now) in their own ways.

Enough of my thoughts on The Orange Prize 2011 so far, what do you all think about it? What do you make of the short list?

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My Orange Shortlist 2011…

Today will see the announcement of The Orange Prize Short List 2011 and I think it’s the most excited I have been about a prizes short list, other than The Green Carnation Prize of course, in quite some time. I was going to call this post ‘guessing the Orange short list 2011’ but I simply can’t second guess what the panel of judges will have chosen as the final six books, even if I have read the entire Orange long list for 2011 (and I did manage it, thanks to my latest stint in the hospital). I can only go on what I would put forward for my six personal choices after having read the lot. So before I make my guesses here are the 20 books long listed once more, all with my score out of ten and links to the ones have posted already, others are from posts pending which will be up over the next week or so (I’m spacing them out in case you are oranged out, as I almost was at one point)…

So like I said rather than guessing what the judges might or might not have in their short list, no one can do that as five individuals will all love very different books (a few of my favourite submissions for The Green Carnation Prize last year didn’t make the longlist as I was out voted, that’s the way it goes sometimes), I looked at my marks out of ten. Did I still rate those books as highly as I did at the time, how did they compare, had some favourites faded and some books stayed with me when I thought they wouldn’t? I then thought about which of the 20 books I would want to have to read again two or more times and which ones I really loved first time but I am not sure I could read again (something I will be discussing on the blog soon). I also ignored hype, and would hope the judges are too. These are the six that I would have chosen if I was a judge, in order of preference…

  

  

It was a really, really tough decision to make because this years twenty books, ok apart from two of them for me personally, were all really strong and reading them has been brilliant on the whole. You might be shocked as two of my favourite books from the list haven’t made my final six. ‘Room’ because though I loved it last year I feel like I have seen and heard too much about it since. ‘Great House’, which is a book that really surprised me with how much I loved it when I least expected it to, could I read it again though? Probably not, though I would be happy if both of these were on the shortlist too and have a feeling they both with be on the real one.I almost popped ‘Repeat It Today With Tears’ on there too as that has really grown on me, and I liked it a lot to start with, but I couldn’t choose seven titles so had to be tough!

The six I have chosen have stayed with me, I’ve connected with them all in some way and most of all really, really enjoyed them. Will I get it right? I am sure that I won’t, I was rubbish at guessing the long list and am sure it will be the same in this instance. It’s the taking part that’s the fun bit though isn’t it? Which books do you think will make the final six? Which ones have you read, or which ones are you really tempted to read? Will you be reading the short listed titles?

P.S This will be my last post on all things Orange for a while, apart from the actual long list of course which I will post later, I am aware Savidge Reads has been quite orangey in the last week or so, so my missing long list reviews will be sporadic over the next few weeks/months leading up to the winner being announced.

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The Orange Prize Longlist 2011

Even though there has yet to be an official announcement on their site it seems that The Guardian and The Independent have already announced, rather subtly, what the Orange Longlist 2011 is. I don’t think I am doing anything wrong in doing the same, though I also don’t think that Savidge Reads divulging what’s already out there in much wider read arenas already will make any difference. I tried guessing the Longlist yesterday (thought the post went up at silly o’clock this morning), do have a read, and you can see I did superbly badly in guessing only three (I will put stars next to those three, links to the ones I have read – all one of them – and italics under the ones I have in the TBR) of the titles, which are…

  • Lyrics Alley – Leila Aboulela (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
  • Jamrach’s Menagerie – Carol Birch (Canongate)
  • Room – Emma Donoghue (Picador)*
  • The Pleasure Seekers – Tishani Doshi (Bloomsbury)
  • Whatever You Love – Louise Doughty (Faber & Faber)
  • A Visit from the Goon Squad – Jennifer Egan (Corsair)*
  • The Memory of Love – Aminatta Forna (Bloomsbury)
  • The London Train – Tessa Hadley (Jonathan Cape)
  • Grace Williams Says it Loud – Emma Henderson (Sceptre)
  • The Seas – Samantha Hunt (Corsair)
  • The Birth of Love – Joanna Kavenna (Faber & Faber)
  • Great House – Nicole Krauss (Viking)
  • The Road to Wanting – Wendy Law-Yone (Chatto & Windus)
  • The Tiger’s Wife – Téa Obreht (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)*
  • The Invisible Bridge – Julie Orringer (Viking)
  • Repeat it Today with Tears – Anne Peile (Serpent’s Tail)
  • Swamplandia! – Karen Russell (Chatto & Windus)
  • The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives – Lola Shoneyin (Serpent’s Tail)
  • The Swimmer – Roma Tearne (Harper Press)
  • Annabel – Kathleen Winter (Jonathan Cape)

I mentioned earlier that actually the less that I got right the happier I would be as it means a whole list of potential delights to discover. I am kicking myself for not going with my Emma Henderson guess and also did a real ‘doh!’ moment when I saw Louise Doughty as I have ‘Whatever You Love’ in my top 5 bedside TBR books. I could focus on the ‘grrr, why didn’t that one get on the list’ feeling a bout a few titles I had read but there are a lot of books to excite me on the list to.

The titles by Leila Aboulela, Carol Birch, Aminatta Forna, Tea Obreht, Karen Russell, Lola Shoneyin and Kathleen Winter are the instant standouts of the books I don’t own and would really like to read having just looked them all up very quickly on Waterstones website. There is a certain amount of ‘really?’ not because I think Tishani Doshi, Jennifer Egan, Samatha Hunt, Anne Peile and Roma Tearne deserve not to be on the list, they are just all books which have come through my doorway and then got lost in the only box that vanished on the move up north. Actually lets move on, I still can’t quite talk about that event as it gets to me a lot, though teaches me I should read faster maybe.

Will I be reading the longlist myself? No, because I don’t have them all, though there are a few I might see if the library has. For now though I will say I will try those titles that I have in the TBR and bring you my thoughts on them, and maybe any which arrive after, before the shortlist is announced on 12th of April. I don’t think I could read 19 books, remember I have only read one so far, in that time anyways, especially not the massive Orringer. Having said that though, I am going in for a big operation on my birthday next week, so there is lots of recovery time coming…

So what do you think of the list? Which ones have you read and are overjoyed to see on their? Any you have tried and didn’t quite get to grips with? Any books that you are rather miffed didn’t make it? What do you think about the official longlist compared to my rogue one? Any other Orange thoughts?

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Guessing The Orange Prize Longlist 2011…

It seems that the day when the Orange Longlist is announced for 2011, which is today and will be in a couple of hours of this post going live I am sure, has taken a really long time to come around and then has suddenly swooped down on us fast. In fact I commented pretty much that very thing on Dovegreyreader the other day. You see I always think it gets announced in February and then there is a big lead up to June. I do wonder how my head works sometimes. Anyway… soon we will know what the twenty books that make the Orange Prize Longlist for 2011 will be, and so it’s my annual Orange Prize guess also known as ‘Simon shows how wrong he can be about women’s writing in the last year’ (see my 2010 guesses for more)…

Initially I started off getting competitive with myself over trying to come up with a list which contained the winning lot. Then I sat back and thought that seriously who else apart from the judges would know what these might be as the options are endless as are the books that could have been put forward. This year I went through all the books eligible, books written in English in print in the UK between April 1st 2010 and March 31st 2011, and came up with my twenty based on what I had read (in blue as you can read my thoughts), what was on my TBR/on loan from the library (in italics) and books I have been wanting to get my mitts on and haven’t yet (in bold – as a birthday, which is 8 days away, hint). So without further waffle here is the Savidge Orange 20 in alphabetical surname order to make it fairer…

   
Started Early, Took My Dog – Kate Atkinson
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake – Aimee Bender
True Things About Me – Deborah Kay Davies

Scissors, Paper, Stone – Elizabeth Day

   
Room – Emma Donoghue
Theodora – Stella Duffy
The Cry of the Go-Away Bird – Andrea Eames
A Visit From The Goon Squad – Jennifer Egan (which I would have but it went missing in the move)

   
The Cookbook Collector – Allegra Goodman
We Had It So Good – Linda Grant
T
he History of History – Ida Hattemer-Higgins 
Mr Chartwell – Rebecca Hunt

   
The Report – Jessica Francis Kane

The Hand That First Held Mine – Maggie O’Farrell
The News Where You Are – Catherine O’Flynn
The Tigers Wife – Tea ObrehtDark Matter – Michelle Paver (which I would have but it went missing in the move)
The Fates Will Find Their Way – Hannah Pittard
Mr Rosenblum’s List – Natasha Solomons
When God Was A Rabbit – Sarah Winman

   

I did umm and ahhh about putting ‘Grace Williams Says It Loud’ by Emma Henderson on the list but I have seen that in the Orange Book Group displays in Waterstones (where I got the new Books Quarterly) so assumed that it would be off the list. I have it and will be reading it any way. I know that maybe Kate Atkinson is a random pick as its essentially a crime novel as I mentioned yesterday if Val McDermids latest is as good as ‘The Mermaids Singing’ that would be a welcome entry, I wondered also if Susan Hill’s ‘A Kind Man’ might be too short?

I wonder how I will do with this lot, can I bet my 8 out of 20 best from last year? In a weird way I hope I do the same as the last or a little worse, as one of the joys of a longlist is learning about the books you werent aware of. Which books would you bet on being in the list? Will anyone, sadly I don’t think I could, be trying to read them all?

I have of course updated the blog with the actual longlist now.

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