Tiger by Polly Clark

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Polly Clark: Tiger

Published By: riverrun Books

Buy It: here

What The Blurb Says:

Set across two continents, Tiger is a sweeping story of survival and redeeming love that plunges the reader into one of the world’s last wildernesses with blistering authenticity.

Frieda is a primatologist, sensitive and solitary, until a violent attack shatters her ordered world. In her new role as a zookeeper, she confronts a very different ward: an injured wild tiger.

Deep in the Siberian taiga, Tomas, a Russian conservationist, fears that the natural order has toppled. The king tiger has been killed by poachers and a spectacular tigress now patrols his vast territory as her own.

In a winter of treacherous competition, the path of the tigress and her cub crosses with an Udeghe huntress and her daughter. Vengeance must follow, and the fates of both tigers and people are transformed.

Learning of her tiger’s past offers Frieda the chance of freedom. Faced with the savage forces of nature, she must trust to her instinct and, like the tiger, find a way to live in the world.

What I Say:

For those who know me, and for those who don’t, I absolutely adored Polly Clark’s first novel Larchfield.  To be given the opportunity to read and review her second novel, Tiger, was something I just didn’t want to miss.  I have to admit from the outset, when I heard it was about Tigers and central Siberia, I was sceptical.  I am not a fan of novels about animals, and wasn’t sure how I could relate to Siberian tigers or the terrain they inhabit.

What becomes clear from reading the novel is that although the tigers are absolutely at the heart and permeate every part of this epic and majestic story, it is also about humans, and how we want to feel part of the world around us.  To matter to someone, to have that bond with another human being is everything, and that sometimes we have to go far beyond our limits and experience to do so. It also unashamedly tackles issues of addiction, motherhood, love, loss and unresolved grief and is all the richer for doing so.

Tiger is about Frieda, a primatologist who is sacked from her job at the Institute for being caught using drugs, and is given a final chance as a zookeeper at Torbet Zoo in Cornwall. It is about Tomas, a Russian conservationist working with his father, who has given up everything to protect the tigers of Siberia.  We meet Edit and her daughter Zina, who has left her husband and her life in the Undeghe tribe to survive in a cabin in the wilds of Siberia.

All these people are linked by the tigers of Siberia, and have to reassess everything they know in order to survive. When Frieda is picked to observe the new tiger, Luna, at Torbet Zoo, she believes she is starting to form a bond with her. Frieda also has to deal with a fellow employee Gabriel, the son of the owner who resents Frieda for being asked to look after the new tiger, and is a mixture of bully and protector.  At the heart of it all, Luna is still a wild animal, trapped in a cage, whose instinct to attack when she smells blood means that Frieda ends up being a victim of the very animal she was attempting to help.

For Tomas, his compassion and understanding for the animals that surround his camp, means he is finely tuned to their needs and desires, but he has to face the fact that he is lonely and has rejected his chance of a family and a way to feel loved and needed.  He has prioritised his father and the tigers, and is drifting around the landscape, rootless and unsatisfied by his endless quest to ensure the tigers are safe.

Edit has tried to be the woman that her father and husband expect, she has struggled with her feelings for her husband, and come to realise she actually doesn’t love him and likes him even less.  Frustrated by the constraints others put upon her, and desperate to ensure her daughter doesn’t follow in her footsteps, she decides to leave the safety of her village and put herself at the mercy of the wild to learn to live and find herself again.

Polly has created a barren and starkly uncompromising landscape  – where you are never sure what is going to happen next, and you are absolutely aware the sense of isolation that the characters feel. It doesn’t matter what continent they live in, their loneliness is only magnified by the magical and poetic language that weaves its way through the pages and around them all. I always felt that the humans were at the mercy of the tigers.  The intelligence and survival instincts the humans have, mean that although they know the rules of the wild, and believe that they have the upper hand, in fact, as we discover, the tigers are the true rulers of Siberia, and the humans are subjects in their kingdom.

Tiger is a novel that moves stealthly along, that seamlessly moves between characters and continents, strong and sure like the animal itself.  Polly has achieved many things in this novel.  It is an education for someone like me who knew nothing of tigers and tigresses, or Siberia or even how a zoo works, and it gives the reader much food for thought as to our place and responsibilites to the world around us.  I have to say, that the overriding lesson I took away from my reading of Tiger, is that no matter how much we try to convince ourselves, every single one of us needs to feel a connection to both the natural world around us and to someone else to truly feel alive.

Thank you so much to Katya Ellis, Ana Sampson McLaughlin and Elizabeth Masters for asking me to be part of the Tiger Social Media blast in exchange for an honest review.

Why don’t you see what everyone else is saying about Tiger too…

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