30 Books in 30 Days, Books 1-10

The first book I read this month was a collection of short stories, Legoland by Gerard Woodward. One of my reading habits I hoped to change this year was my reluctance to read short story collections, I won this collection on Goodreads last year and ended up rating it four out of five stars. There are stories covering a range of topics including divorce and identity theft as well as some stories dealing with the supernatural. I really enjoyed Woodward’s writing and my favourite stories were ‘The Family Whistle’ where a man returns from War to find his friend has taken his identity and is living with his wife,  ‘The Flag,’ a neighbourhood dystopia and ‘The Unloved’ on the subject of separation.

9781447288671legoland

The first novel I read this month was The Sound and The Fury by William Faulkner. This was my second Faulkner novel having previously read As I Lay Dying. I think I will be haunted by this novel for a long time. I thoroughly enjoyed the immersive reading experience as the story is told by four different narrators, each a relative of the Compson family, who have a habit of jumping back and forth between the present and various family memories at any given time. Thus you have to be alert when reading the novel and to a certain extent put clues together to work out what is happening. The characters are three dimensional, very unreliable and in some cases extremely disturbed, our opening narrator Benjy is mentally handicapped. The plot covers some dark topics including incest and racism. I found the first two parts of the four-part novel to be the most enjoyable with Benjy, Caddie and Quentin being my favourite, though extremely flawed, characters. I found Jason’s narrative particularly difficult to read due to his aggressive, hateful nature. I rated this novel five stars as I loved Faulkner’s writing and found the characters seemed, if anything, all-too real.

 

863334

 

I then had the privilege of  diving back into Sui Ishida‘s world Tokyo Ghoul. I’m surprised this is the only volume I have read thus far in 2017 having read volumes 1-6 last year. I, as usual, really enjoyed this volume giving it four out of five stars on Goodreads. However I found this instalment to be less complex than the others, sadly volume 7 seems to act as a filler in the series. Nevertheless I enjoyed being back in the world of ghouls and catching up with all of the characters that I loved. This volume in particular focused on torture and the human psyche.

 

81vDCpaGndL

 

I read the first Volume of Monster by Naoki Urasawa on Halloween this year and was desperate to read more. After reading Sui Ishida’s Tokyo Ghoul I decided to pick up Volume 2 of Monster. I was challenged to read the first instalment by my younger sister who has a slight obsession with the series and I was not disappointed. This is a supernatural detective series based in Germany with the main character being a top surgeon turned unemployed independent investigator, Tenma. So far it is a cat-and-mouse chase between good and evil. What’s not to love? I gave this volume five stars and loved the new characters who were introduced.

 

81+TuMyIL0L

 

I then read The Waves by Virginia Woolf. This was also a very immersive reading experience as we are constantly reading different people’s perspectives, Woolf’s novella centres around a group of friends, the narrative voice switches between these characters after almost every paragraph. While I enjoyed this novella, I prefer To The Lighthouse. I look forward to reading more of Woolf’s novels in the future. I left this novella unrated as although I enjoy the book and its experimental form, I did not enjoy all of its characters finding some, particularly Bernard, rather boring.  

51dHDysN8WL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_

 

Having read a short story collection, some classic novels and some Manga, I decided to broaden my reading by including some YA novels in this challenge. They are also faster to read which may have been an essential part of my reasoning.  I decided to finish off a series by reading the third and final instalment in The Darkest Minds trilogy by Alexandra Bracken: In The Afterlight. This trilogy is basically X-Men except there are only five possible power groups and everyone who has mutated is of the same generation, the trilogy begins in one of the prisons set up to home these children and young adults and keep them apart from normal, less dangerous, society. While the trilogy is flawed in terms of the writing style and certain clichés littered throughout the storytelling,  I enjoyed the power system and the portrayal of friendship and found the messy ending realistic and appropriate.

 

16150831

 

The second Young Adult novel I read this month was another recommended read by another younger sister, Angelfall by Susan Ee. This is another dystopia where Angels have come and tortured our mortal world. The novel is set in a ruined-cities, fight and steal for your food world in which the main character Penryn scrounges with her family: her mother and her disabled younger sister. At the beginning of the novel Penryn witnesses an unfair fight between Angels, her sister makes a noise that draws attention to her family so Penryn is forced to help the outnumbered Angel, by giving him back his weapon, so that the fight can continue and her family can escape. This fails and her sister is taken by one of the other Angels so Penryn forces the wounded, outnumbered Angel to take her to the home of Angels to retrieve her sister. While I enjoyed this novel I will not be continuing with the series.

 

15863832

Having read some YA, I returned to Classic novels by reading another recommended novel, Sophie’s Choice by William Styron. I loved this novel! What I loved about this novel was the relatable, every-day-life lens in which we gain insight into this completely foreign (to modern readers) nightmarish world of Auschwitz. I found that this was done really well with the book opening in 1947 with our narrator, Stingo being fascinated by his neighbour Sophie and her toxic relationship with Nathan. Therefore we first see Sophie outside of the War and outside of herself as we only ever see her as Stingo sees her. Although her choice is obvious to modern readers, it is not revealed until, I believe, the last fifty pages of this over 600 page novel. Similarly to Frankenstein, I did not go into this novel blind, having always known some aspects of the plot and yet I also found this novel to be nothing at all as I expected it to be. Central unexpected themes of this novel include Sex and Drugs and Poverty. I also gave this novel five stars on Goodreads.

 

9780099470441-uk

 

 

The ninth book I read this month is Night Film by Marisha Pessl. I picked this novel up due to the heavy themes in Sophie’s Choice, I thought it best to read something more fast paced (although I read Sophie’s Choice in two days) and less complex. However, this novel is unexpectedly layered.

Night Film is a multi-media thriller with perhaps supernatural elements? The novel opens with the apparent suicide of a 24 year old girl named Ashley Cordova, daughter of illusive cult-horror film director Stanislas Cordova. Cordova’s films have spawned true-crime and as a result are banned, they are sold illegally and watched underground. There are many myths and legends surrounding the family. The narrator’s career in journalism was ruined when sued for slander years previously by Cordova himself.  At the beginning of the novel he decides to investigate the death of Cordova’s daughter as an opportunity to learn more on the family and is joined by two secondary characters, both with connections to Ashley, in his quest for the truth. There are some scenes in the novel that could be classed as Horror however the novel is primarily detective fiction, the ending is ambiguous and the subject of controversy. The novel also has interactive elements, different video clips etc you can access on your smart phone.

Personally, I enjoyed the ambiguous ending and have my own preferred theory which I obviously will not disclose here. There were some parts of the novel where I felt the pacing was wrong and one or two theories I felt were out of place however I enjoyed the fact that this is a somewhat messy read, if you like stories and relationships to be rounded off perfectly I would avoid reading Night Film. I will definitely be reading more of Pessl’s fiction, I gave this novel four out of five stars.

 

51HxBk2iZBL._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_

 

Then I purchased and read the latest volume of The Ghastling: ‘Tales of the Macabre, Ghosts and the oh-so Strange’ edited by Rebecca Parfitt.  I would highly recommend this collection especially for this time of year! There are nine spooky stories in the collection, each vastly different in content and atmosphere. My three favourites are ‘Heartwood’ by Carly Holmes about a mother who is part-tree, this one I found to be one of the less scary stories in the collection but loved the Gothic-fairytale feel, ‘At The Stroke’ by Laura Maria Grierson which is a family tale about a broken Grandfather clock and a dying mother, this has a creepy, haunting undertone to the narrative and ‘The Last Laugh’ about an arcade worker and a laughing clown machine which is as menacing as it sounds. Overall this is a thoroughly enjoyable anthology that can be revisited in the future.

 

51J1lUdXG6L._SX348_BO1,204,203,200_

 

So far I’ve had a very fortunate experience with this challenge, I am doing well with the number of books read so far. More importantly, the quality of the books have been high. I hope this continues throughout the challenge and that it remains enjoyable. Wish me luck,

 

Sophie

Advertisements

30 books 30 days: Take 2

I have fallen back into my normal reading habits again! I always find it easier to read during the colder months. I fell into a reading slump during my previous attempt at reading 30 books in 30 days and then I fell pregnant and life became hectic. November should be a relatively quiet month for me so I have decided to try this challenge once more, hopefully with more success!

While I am not going to do a set TBR, as I am largely a mood-reader, I do have various posts planned throughout November including an update on the books I have read since my last updates a few months ago as well as weekly updates on my progress throughout this challenge. Despite not having a set TBR I am hoping to read at least one non-fiction novel as part of Non-Fiction November. I will begin this challenge with my current read The Waves by Virginia Woolf, unless of course I manage to finish this tonight,

51dHDysN8WL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_

Stay tuned,

Sophie

Review: Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë

298230

 

At age 19 Anne Brontë left home and worked as a governess for a few years before becoming a writer. Agnes Grey was an 1847 novel based on her experience as a governess. Bronte depicts the precarious position of a governess and how that can affect a young woman. Agnes was the daughter of a minister whose family was in financial difficulty. She has only a few choices for employment. Agnes experiences the difficulty of reining in spoiled children and how wealth can corrupt morals.

There are some spoilers in this review.

As I am not a fan of Jane Austen I did not expect to enjoy the works of the Brontë sisters. This is due to the fact that until now, everyone I have spoke to who is a fan of one is also a fan of the other. I first read the Brontës at University starting with Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë followed by The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë. While I did not enjoy Jane Eyre, to my surprise, I cannot say the same for The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. I believed that I had already found my favourite Brontë which was a bold claim to make having neglected Emily’s works. I hope to read Wuthering Heights this year.

 

Having enjoyed Anne Brontë’s second novel I was eagerly anticipating Agnes Grey which I requested from my local library. My first impression was almost the opposite to my first impressions of Charlotte’s work Jane Eyre (Jane as a child was far more interesting.) I enjoyed (only) the beginning of Jane Eyre and felt that, Agnes Grey in comparison was lacking a certain entertainment value, it seemed already to a slow burner. However, I expected I would soon get more immersed when the plot began to unravel. It is in fact overall slow-paced and less action packed than Jane Eyre which in my opinion is positive as Charlotte’s novel has perhaps too much going on.  I compare the two novels due to their authors and the fact that they both centre around a governess.

 

I realised fairly quickly that there was a feminist narrative in Anne’s novel, a bold move for a female author (albeit under a pseudonym) in 1847. As a feminist of her time Agnes was, on occasion, the provider of great wisdom and can therefore be a positive influencer as her role of governess requires,

 

“Filling her head with all manner of conceited notions concerning her personal appearance (which I had instructed her to regard as dust in the balance compared with the cultivation of her mind and manners)” (102)

 

However I was not fond of Agnes’s character as I found her to be far too critical of others to be a moral, likeable person, often going over the top with her descriptions of others, for example:

“My only companions had been unamiable children, and ignorant, wrong-headed girls, from whose fatiguing folly, unbroken solitude was often a relief most earnestly desired and dearly prized.” (155)

This quote in particular had me loathing Agnes as I failed to view her as more amiable than the children in question. As their governess I would have thought that she would want to make these children better people rather than wanting to run away from them in what can only be described as dramatic despair. Our protagonist then shares her fears that in solitude she will, heaven forbid, become less intelligent and less moral. In all honesty I felt I was almost choking on her morality that was being forced down our throats on almost every page.

One of her primary criticisms of Miss Murray is that she is too boy-crazy. This, in itself, is fair and Agnes gives good counsel to her pupil on such matters several times throughout the novel questioning her liking for having “so many conquests” (135) by asking “what good will they do you? I should think one conquest would be enough.” (135) However, twenty pages later we read Agnes informing her readers that

“The gross vapours of earth were gathering round me, and closing in upon my inward heaven; and thus it was that Mr Weston rose at length upon me, appearing like the morning star in my horizon, to save me from the fear of utter darkness” (155)

It was at this point of the novel when I began to like the character of Miss Murray more than Agnes herself. Miss Murray is, at the very least,  more aware of her flaws whereas Agnes sees nobody else but Mr Weston who exhibits “human excellence.” (155) Her liking for Mr Weston, which happens far too quickly (we first hear her discuss him on page 139) without ever having a meaningful discussion with him, immediately consumes her. She thinks of Mr Weston for the rest of the novel which takes away her independence, which was until this stage of the novel the one quality I could praise her for. As, though she is kind, she is kind only outwardly, therefore I assume her intention for any act of kindness is her own reputation. Her kindness in fact, seemed somewhat of a joke on page 165 when she hears of Mr Weston’s sorry tale and notes “I pitied him from my heart; I almost wept for sympathy” almost wept? almost? is this yet another moral brag? I should mention she goes on to say “but’, thought I, ‘he is not so miserable as I should be under such a depravation.” did you pick up on the human excellence that is Agnes Grey?

It was also my opinion that she often used people to her own avail, including Nancy and Miss Murray. There was also her constant worrying about her reputation above all else while she was teaching her pupils not to do so that lead me to think  of her as hypocritical. It felt as though her narrative was aimed at lecturing the reader on morals when the protagonist herself was exhibiting few.

One character I was fond of was Agnes’s mother who, upon being widowed, wrote back to her father rejecting his conditions of acceptance. Agnes’ grandfather did not approve of his daughter’s marriage and subsequent children and found her choices shameful, he then, upon her husband’s death,  agreed to overlook all of her mishaps (of which there were none in reality) and add her to his will if she admitted to all of her mistakes. After writing her reply she asks her daughters “Will this do children?- or shall we say we are all very sorry for what has happened during the last thirty years; and my daughters wish they had never been born; but since they have had that misfortune, they will be thankful for any trifle their grandpapa will be kind enough to bestow?” (214) queue the applause.It is strong moments like this, of which there are a few, that make Agnes Grey an important novel in history regardless to personal taste. I personally wish these moments were more consistent. In fact the novel as a whole seems to be disjointed perhaps due to the autobiographical elements.

As you now know I had many issues with this novel. The plot is unimaginative and due to my dislike towards Brontë’s protagonist I found little value in this novel outside of the few uplifting feminist scenes, which of course were not perfect for today’s times but make this novel important nevertheless. I do not believe Agnes underwent any positive character development in the novel or formed any positive human relationships. To conclude, I will not be recommending this novel to anyone. As previously mentioned I would like to read Wuthering Heights and perhaps Vilette. Are there any Brontë novels you would recommend I read or review? If so be sure to leave a comment. This is my third Brontë novel and I have only enjoyed one.

 

Sophie

30 books 30 days: Week One

This is my wrap up of the first week in my April TBR challenge. I think it was around the third or fourth day in April I decided to do this challenge having thankfully already read two manga collections and a short novel which helped my number count from the beginning. In the first week of the challenge I have read seven books!

1: Deathnote Vol II by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata

image1-4

Read: April  3rd making it the fourth of April when I started this challenge. I thoroughly enjoyed this volume and hope to do a series review once I’ve read the subsequent volumes. Doing a review in this way will allow me to give an honest review without being concerned with spoilers etc.

 

 

2: Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami

51dhqi5bufl-_sy344_bo1204203200_

Tsukiko is in her late 30s and living alone when one night she happens to meet one of her former high school teachers, ‘Sensei’, in a bar. He is at least thirty years her senior, retired and, she presumes, a widower. After this initial encounter, the pair continue to meet occasionally to share food and drink sake, and as the seasons pass – from spring cherry blossom to autumnal mushrooms – Tsukiko and Sensei come to develop a hesitant intimacy which tilts awkwardly and poignantly into love.

Perfectly constructed, funny, and moving, Strange Weather in Tokyo is a tale of modern Japan and old-fashioned romance.

Also read on April 3rd.  This is a slow paced romance which I did enjoy however this one was just an average read in my opinion. I did not particularly love any of Kawakami’s characters although I did find the writing beautiful and appreciated the added Haiku study.

 

 

3: Orange The Complete Collection 1 by  Ichigo Takano

9781626923027

On the day that Naho begins 11th grade, she receives a letter from herself ten years in the future. At first, she writes it off as a prank, but as the letter’s predictions come true one by one, Naho realizes that the letter might be the real deal. Her future self tells Naho that a new transfer student, a boy named Kakeru, will soon join her class. The letter begs Naho to watch over him, saying that only Naho can save Kakeru from a terrible future. Who is this mystery boy, and can Naho save him from his destiny? This is the heart-wrenching sci-fi romance that has over million copies in print in Japan!

Again read on April 3rd. This manga series is unlike any I’ve read before (although I have only ever tried four different series excluding this one) and while I know some people believe it has no staying power, I think it has a sort of subtle brilliance. The storyline is sad and juggles both reality and science fiction. I like the cast of characters and will be continuing with the series.

 

 

4: The Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht

image1-5

Having sifted through everything I have heard about the tiger and his wife, I can tell you that this much is fact: in April of 1941, without declaration or warning, the German bombs started falling over the city and did not stop for three days. The tiger did not know that they were bombs…

A tiger escapes from the local zoo, padding through the ruined streets and onwards, to a ridge above the Balkan village of Galina. His nocturnal visits hold the villagers in a terrified thrall. But for one boy, the tiger is a thing of magic – Shere Khan awoken from the pages of The Jungle Book.

Natalia is the granddaughter of that boy. Now a doctor, she is visiting orphanages after another war has devastated the Balkans. On this journey, she receives word of her beloved grandfather’s death, far from their home, in circumstances shrouded in mystery.

From fragments of stories her grandfather told her as a child, Natalia realizes he may have died searching for ‘the deathless man’, a vagabond who was said to be immortal. Struggling to understand why a man of science would undertake such a quest, she stumbles upon a clue that will lead her to a tattered copy of The Jungle Book, and then to the extraordinary story of the tiger’s wife.

Read on April 5th. I may end up writing a review for one book per week of this challenge. You can find my review in two parts: (Part One)  (Part Two)

 

 

5: A Streetcat named Bob by James Bowen

MV5BMTY5MTI1MzE5Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMjQzNjEzOTE@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_

When James Bowen found an injured, ginger street cat curled up in the hallway of his sheltered accommodation, he had no idea just how much his life was about to change. James was living hand to mouth on the streets of London and the last thing he needed was a pet.
Yet James couldn’t resist helping the strikingly intelligent tom cat, whom he quickly christened Bob. He slowly nursed Bob back to health and then sent the cat on his way, imagining he would never see him again. But Bob had other ideas.

Soon the two were inseparable and their diverse, comic and occasionally dangerous adventures would transform both their lives, slowly healing the scars of each other’s troubled pasts.

A Street Cat Named Bob is a moving and uplifting story that will touch the heart of anyone who reads it.

I believe this was my first non-fiction book of the year which I finished reading yesterday, April 6th. Bowen’s story made me laugh and very nearly cry. I thought it was fast-paced and easy to read. However, I feel like the book did not have a conclusive ending, it seemed as though the book was ended on a whim.

 

6: Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë

298230

At age 19 Anne Brontë left home and worked as a governess for a few years before becoming a writer. Agnes Grey was an 1847 novel based on her experience as a governess. Bronte depicts the precarious position of a governess and how that can affect a young woman. Agnes was the daughter of a minister whose family was in financial difficulty. She has only a few choices for employment. Agnes experiences the difficulty of reining in spoiled children and how wealth can corrupt morals.

Also read yesterday, April 6th. I had several problems with this novel. The first being that Agnes Grey is supposed to be a loveable and moral character. Personally, I did not like Brontë’s protagonist who, in my opinion, made no real, honest human connection after leaving her family’s home. It’s fair to say from the last statement that I was not a fan of the romance either. That being said I am more than happy to acknowledge that Agnes Grey is, for its time, a feminist novel and is therefore indisputably of high importance. I realise when writing this that I will have to write a separate review of this novel as I clearly have more to say than I had initially thought, which is also a good thing, if you are interested this review will be up over the weekend.

 

7: The Metamorphosis and Other Stories by Franz Kafka, translated by Joyce Crick

413SBMCqzXL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_

‘When Gregor Samsa woke one morning from uneasy dreams, he found himself transformed into some kind of monstrous vermin.’

With a bewildering blend of the everyday and the fantastical, Kafka thus begins his most famous short story, The Metamorphosis. A commercial traveller is unexpectedly freed from his dreary job by his inexplicable transformation into an insect, which drastically alters his relationship with his family. Kafka considered publishing it with two of the stories included here in a volume to be called Punishments. The Judgement also concerns family tensions, when a power struggle between father and son ends with the father passing an enigmatic judgement on the helpless son. The third story, In the Penal Colony, explores questions of power, justice, punishment, and the meaning of pain in a colonial setting. These three stories are flanked by two very different works. Meditation, the first book Kafka published, consists of light, whimsical, often poignant mood-pictures, while in the autobiographical Letter to his Father, Kafka analyses his difficult relationship in forensic and devastating detail.

For the 125th anniversary of Kafka’s birth comes an astonishing new translation of his best-known stories, in a spectacular graphic package.

Table of contents:

Meditation
The Judgement
The Metamorphosis
In the Penal Colony
(Autobiographical) Letter to his Father

I finished reading this collection today. After reading The Trial a couple of years ago I was really excited to read more Kafka, my favourite part of this collection was the letter he wrote to his father. While I did not enjoy this collection as much as I hoped, or as much as I enjoyed The Trial, I still find Kafka’s writing beautiful.

 

 

Sophie

The Reasons I read…

I was not the most academically minded at primary and secondary school, in fact I didn’t get very good grades in English for a long time. It was my weak link, and I went to extra curriculum classes in primary to catch up. I felt bad about this and as a result shied away from reading or anything really school related. I managed to get good enough results to go to college where I met Sophie who quite honestly turned my ambitions around. I then started working harder and aspired to more than before. As a result I managed to get into university and then get my degree. I have lot to thank Sophie for. I also always wanted to read thanks to my parents who have always read a little here and there.

My Dad is very much into Jack Higgins and James Patterson or any Spy Thrillers really whilst my Mum has always been more likely to read Jodi Picoult or romance although she does like the odd mystery novel. Sam, my crazy sister, likes to read almost everything but her favourite is John Green (eugh) haha. Overall my family read more than average I would say and as a result I am a keen reader.

Finally, you all know how much Sophie reads (a crazy amount) her enthusiasm has definitely worn off on me. My favourite genre would probably be Thrillers, however I do enjoy the odd Classic too such as Fitzgerald and Hemingway.

Why do I read?

  1. Getting taken to a different world and seeing things from a different person’s perspective.
  2. Expanding my knowledge
  3. Help relating to others
  4. To get better at writing
  5. To share thoughts and have discussions with people, specifically those close to me
  6. Because Books, right?

That’s just a little insight into me.

 

Danny

April TBR Challenge: 30 books in 30 days

After watching a Beyond the Pages video about her current reading challenge, to read 30 books in 30 days, I have decided to also partake. This post will be a list of books that I hope to read this month. At the end of each week I will be doing a wrap up of my reading, I am hoping to stick exactly to the schedule below. Wish me luck!

Days 1-7

7544945 9781626923027 51dhqi5bufl-_sy344_bo1204203200_

image1-5 298230 MV5BMTY5MTI1MzE5Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMjQzNjEzOTE@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_

413SBMCqzXL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_

Days 8-14

51X97afF44L._SX308_BO1,204,203,200_ 9780099549246 HO00004134

61ctwxzsuzl-_sx327_bo1204203200_ 17199504 orlando264

 

Days 15-21

41Nmn1CQ0SL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_ 4ab1a7514f66c0eaf244c57966f01fc4 9780143128625

41qFEkUCprL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_ 98afc6aea4dca3d1acbae3206dee4eea Othello

513mk+V3LQL._SX315_BO1,204,203,200_

 

Days 22-30

9781447288671legoland 15-doctor-faustus8666582-_uy448_ss448_51xaxk5utcl-_sx312_bo1204203200_ 51whajzeh7l-_sy344_bo1204203200_ 9780099593584

61MvIVaurSL 81gudkysk8l 56034

 

Sophie

Review: The Tiger’s Wife (Part Two)

Inevitably, it got pretty hard to want to pick this book up about halfway through. To see why please read Part One. It’s strange how certain books come to you at the most appropriate time of your life. Are most of our favourite novels all about timing? More than anything else this novel is a narrative of grief.

image1-5

“I had been longing for my grandfather all day without letting myself think about it….They had lost children themselves, my grandparents: a son and a daughter, both stillborn, within a year of each other. It was another thing they never talked about, a fact I knew somehow without knowing how I’d ever heard about it, something buried so long ago, in such absolute silence, that I could go for years without remembering it. When I did I was always stunned by the fact that they had survived it, this thing that sat between them.” (129-130)

This is the perfect example of how confusing grief can be, to have the world still go on around you and how you can feel as though you are not allowed to let yourself think about it. It is also an example of how grief separates us, as the knowledge of her grandparents loss distances Natalia from them. This is because grief is not spoken about. This can be seen several times throughout the novel for example when Natalia goes to collect her late grandfather’s belongings the nurse she encounters is indifferent to his death saying “nothing about my grandfather being a nice man, nothing about how it was a shame he had died.” (143) Obreht manages to express these feelings naturally without under or overplaying the role of grief in the life of her protagonist. While grieving we can see her continue with her profession, we see her continue with social interaction. While she grieves we see that the magic still exists…

“There was something familiar about the room and the village, a crowded feeling of sadness that crawled into my gut, but not for the first time, like a note of music I could recognise but not name. I don’t know how long I stood there before I thought of the deathless man.”

I found that the magical realism in this novel was done really well. In fact I believe this novel is far more entertaining than One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez, a staple of magical realism. The story takes place in various time periods, or rather the novel is a masterful combination of stories from different time periods of her and her grandfather’s life. In fact the story sometimes goes back further than her grandfather’s birth and gives the reader back-stories of lesser characters.

If someone asked me to describe the characters in this novel then I have no doubt that I would sound like a crazy person, and yet the characters were not so outlandish that it seemed ridiculous when reading. This may be due to the fact Natalia acts as a storyteller and is somewhat detached from certain stories, telling us through various word of mouth encounters. However it is Natalia’s story that is real and relatable and perhaps that is why we, as readers, are willing to come along on this journey of discovery with her.

Overall I enjoyed Obreht’s writing, I especially loved her character descriptions and I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Tiger’s Wife. Obreht did not rush the ending which I was wary about, particularly as this is a début novel, the story came to a natural end and managed to maintain some of its mystery. While it is unlike anything I’ve read so far this year, (this is book #27) if I had to name a book I found similar to Obreht’s novel it would be The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey which I happen to also have a review for. I draw this comparison due to the fact that they are both, original, modern fairytales. Although, Obreht’s fairytale is loosely based on the historical bombing of Belgrade Zoo during the Second World War where a tiger was believed to have gone missing and was never found. That being said the role of the tiger in the novel was not as clichéd as you might expect and Obreht’s novel is more than a war-novel. Some of the characters of this novel will be on my mind for a long time.

 

Sophie