Author: Tea Obreht
Recommendation: A slow literary narration about life in Balkans and the little moments in life.
Summary: Natalia is a doctor in her 20's telling the story of her grandfather's life and her own childhood after her grandfather dies. The story takes place in an unnamed Balkan country and examines the wars, the encounters with the deathless man, and the story of Tiger's Wife.
Reactions: There have been no lack of reviews for this book. I would classify it as fiction, but there are mythical elements to the book that could earn it a "magic realism" qualification that may have prompted so many folks in the speculative fiction community to read it. That and the endless glowing reviews that the book receives. Since I received the book for Christmas, I decided to see if it would live up to expectations.
The book is certainly evocative. The language is rich, descriptive and detailed. The author captures the atmosphere on the pages of the book. The only problem is that all the descriptions are getting in the way of plot progressing at any reasonable rate. I noticed at page 99 that up to this point, we've only been introduced to main characters and started out on the first encounter with the deathless man. I felt like prodding the author with the sharp stick to keep going at this point. Fortunately, the book does pick up pace as it progresses.
There is a lot of culture and mythology in the book that's familiar to me. In some ways it worked well because I could relate to the book, in others it irritated because of the above-mentioned abundance of descriptions. If someone spent three pages describing a typical American living room to you, chances are you would wish for it to go a bit faster too.
I felt that to me there were parts of the book that were brilliant and touching followed by parts that felt unmotivated or disappointing. I loved the stories of meeting with the deathless man, I loved the bit with the elephant. On the other hand, there are lots of places in the Tiger's Wife storyline that I found illogical (e.g. the circumstances under which she becomes married) and certain other behaviors in the village.
Altogether, I felt the book was a mixed bag, but there are bits of the book that I felt captured feelings or ideas so well that it made for worthwhile reading despite the parts I didn't enjoy as much. I would recommend the book to those looking for a book about people connecting and who are not afraid of long descriptions.