The Tiger's Wife, by Téa Obreht.
Ever since I started writing with purpose, I've been reading with purpose too. I look for books that can teach me about the art of writing; not how-to guides, or course companions, but simply the finest stories out there. Never has learning been so enjoyable.
As soon as the Orange Prize shortlist was announced I plumped for The Tiger's Wife as my first-choice read - driven mainly by curiosity (Obreht is a dewy-cheeked twenty-five year old) and personal interest (it's set in Eastern Europe).
The Tiger's Wife is a book to devour. Or, if you've got the self-restraint, a book to savour, sentence by beautifully-crafted sentence. Either way I was left licking my chops and craving more. Obreht whisks her readers away to an unnamed Balkan country, bringing to life vineyard-tracked shorelines, dark-forest villages and crumbling cities. The cast of characters takes in opportunistic bootleggers, valiant teachers, doctors, orphans, beauties and beasts. The story slips between modern-day reality and ancient folklore, cruelty and kindness, superstition and seeming truth. Characters come and go, details of their lives are dangled tantalizingly then whipped away, but the voice of Natalia and the figure of her grandfather guide the narrative, and never stop beguiling. While throughout a tiger stalks...
Put simply, I loved it. Perhaps less simply, I intend to learn from it.
The Tiger's Wife will assume its place on my bookcase between Barbara Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible and Monique Roffey's The White Woman on a Green Bicycle.