This was a fascinating, disturbing, suspenseful, thought-provoking novel. The author writes of the wars in the Balkans and their after- effects in the in a very realistic and believable way, without ever giving any real names of towns or "sides," but still gives enough local and historical detail that it made me want to learn more about that region. The central relationship between the grandfather and granddaughter is well written and touching. The mysteries surrounding her grandfather's death and youth were fascinating. I would have liked this book more if there weren't so many unanswered questions at the end, and if there was less violence towards the end of the novel. I also didn't like that the author seems to want to deliberately leave us hanging at the end... what part of the stories the grandfather told were real and what wasn't? I like magic realism, and I think it could have worked in this story, but instead it was divided almost completely between concrete present day reality and the magical stories of her grandfather's youth and early career. At the same time there are enough "maybe it is real" parts towards the end that it gets kind of annoying: either let us know what is real and what isn't, or stop teasing us with the "what ifs." *Spoiler alert* The last part about the tiger living in the woods, mourning his "wife"... that was sort of weird, it seems impossible that a tiger could live that long. I generally like backstories, but in the case of the butcher and the hunter, rather than making them more sympathetic characters, their backstories made it even more disturbing that two men who were sensitive and thoughtful in their youth could be capable of so much violence. The last third or so of the book seemed really violent, especially the treatment of the deaf-mute girl, who is never even given a name! I would have liked to learn more about her character and motivations, but we aren't given much beyond the sympathy and understanding between her and the tiger. Some of the loose ends that I wanted answered were: Did the apothecary deliberately poison the tiger's wife with the drink he sent with her grandfather, and if so, why? Why didn't the townsman know or care where the tiger's wife was buried? Was the person at the crossroads that Natalie encounters the "deathless man" or just someone keeping old beliefs alive? Why couldn't the butcher have said "This isn't the woman I asked to marry, you tricked me" and get on with his life? What really is the point of the two stories? Does the deathless man represent the grandfather's changing attitude toward death as he ages? What is the point of the tiger's wife story? I know the ambiguity makes the story more relate-able to real life in a way, but for my leisure reading I don't want this amount of uncertainty.

s390325's rating:
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