At first, I thought this was going to be a book about the aftermath of civil war. I was quite interested in the story of the young woman doctor who was taking vaccines to an orphanage in a part of a country that until recently had been on the opposite side of the war. But pretty soon the story started accumulating characters, each with a backstory that was so long I started to wonder who was really the main character. The farther in I went, the less the story made sense, until I figured out that it is essentially a really depressing book about death.
The grandfather, the Deathless Man, Derisa, the men digging in the vineyard, and obviously the protagonist, Natalia, are all dealing with death in their own particular ways. The book also considers how difficult it is to predict who will live and who will die (doctors, apothecary, Blind Olo, the Deathless Man). The gruesome story of the deaths of the animals in the capital city’s zoo also seems, on the surface, to be about death, but I think that is meant to be a metaphor for how a civil war is like a country eating itself, or its own children. Yeah, depressing.
But being depressing doesn’t make a book a poor read. What I could not reconcile in my mind was the conceit that the entire book was being written by Natalia (it’s all a first-person narrative). Apparently, in the time she had available when she was not doctoring, she went around the country finding these obscure people from her grandfather’s past (I think they’re from his past? The connections between the people were very hard to follow), listened to them tell the entire story of their depressing lives, and then wrote it all down. And the details in the stories were simply too perfect to have been retrieved in this manner, via second- and third-hand accounts. For instance, at one point she is describing when Luka was a musician, and she specifically says that one of his friends had a space between his front teeth and another friend had been burned while lighting a fire. No one would go to that level of detail in telling a story about their far distant past, and if they did, a sensible storyteller would know to edit out such extraneous information. And what is it with the dancing bears? I recently read another book with a dancing bear that comes out of nowhere . . . if there is some special meaning there I missed it.
I listened to this as an audio book read by Susan Duerden and Robin Sachs. I have to say that I loved the way Robin Sachs read the sections narrated by the grandfather. I wish the book had been from the point of view of the grandfather all the way through, it might have made more sense.
English major. Love to read
I had heard many good things about this story but it definitely fell short. While the story was compelling - Balkan country, young doctor finding information about her grandfather's past - it didn't hold me. The inexperience of the author came out in her choice of what to include and what to leave out -- too much was included in places that just didn't need explaining. It is also a very dark story and at the end, I was left feeling empty - that there were things undone and unsaid.
The narrator is okay but gave me a sense that she is sitting on the edge of her seat in the way she pushes forward with the words. That didn't add to the despondency that I felt throughout the novel. I finished this book but was really glad when it was over and I didn't have to read it anymore.
Say something about yourself!
Loved the story---fascinating stories juxtaposing recent & not so recent events. I really liked the characters. Nice contrast of the rational & superstitious ways of seeing the world. It was a hard listen though. While the narration was competent, every word understandable, Duerden did not, to me, seem the voice of the character who was telling the story. Subtle but disturbing. The grandfather's voice was worse--an old man who needed a drink of water.
I found the story to be beautiful and carefully constructed, however I was distracted by the lack of tonal change in the reader's voice. Would not choose to listen to her again.
Counselor with eclectic taste, I enjoy all types of fiction, dark, strange and twisted things, humor and explicitly.
Recommended for the folk tale quality and good narration. the character development was well received the plot enjoyable.
I imagine this book is a pleasurable reading experience, but I had a very difficult time listening to it. The narrator uses so little variation in pitch that I found that I needed to rewind often to catch what had happened. I finally gave up about 1/3 of the way in as it was getting too confusing to follow.
This has been one of my favorites of all time. It's hard to believe such a young person wrote it and that it's her first. It's quite magical and the readers are superb.
Wonderful story, told so expressively and with so much skill that you can't believe the author is only 25. Beautifully read by Susan Duerden. Highly recommend. I will probably listen to this one again.
I hate this book. It is one long digression. Whenever something threatens to actually happen, the author enters some long barely relevant background story, which in turn often leads to another background story, and so on. Who would have thought that a story that involves the undead and tigers could be so dull? But it is. I am going to stop listening.
Obreht: maybe, the story leading up to the end was really cool, but the ending seemed rushed and put together, like it had to ended real quick. it fell flat.Duerden & sachs: no
Most- the deathless manLeast- the only thing really interesting about the tigers wife, not the title the person, was that she was the sister to the lady that the deathless man loved. Her story was nothing really remarkable