Tiger By Polly Clark – A Review

Publisher: Riverrun

Publication Date: 2nd May 2019

When I saw the first whisperings about Tiger by Polly Clark over on the socials, I was immediately interested.  I had read and really enjoyed Larchfield by Polly (reviewed here) and really got along well with her writing style.  She is an author that I know I will always want to read what she writes in the future.

I was lucky enough to be sent an advanced review copy of Tiger and of course as always, my thanks go to the publisher and publicists involved with this.

Tiger is split up into 4 distinct sections.  We start with Freida Bloom a primatologist who works in a research centre, studying the bonobo monkeys.  Freida has a huge affiliation with these creatures and feels almost at one with them, forming a distinct and strong bond with one of the older female monkeys.  However, Freida is a troubled soul, a survivor of a horrific unprovoked hammer attack which left her with a terrible head injury and an addiction to morphine.  When Freida is caught stealing morphine from the research centre, compounded by the fact that she was under the influence of the drug whilst on shift there, she unfortunately loses her job.  The only thing that is really keeping her going.  Charlie her mentor arranges for her to take a position in a small zoo, where Freida is the not always welcome newcomer who has been tasked with looking after the new tiger which has been brought to the zoo from Russia.  Tigers are not Freida’s thing, she’s happier amongst the primates.  But maybe she can form a different bond with the new female in town, Luna…..

Next we jump to the story of Tomas, who’s father Ivan owns a reserve in the taiga region of Russia.  Here in this isolated terrain Tomas tracks the Tigers, rigging up cameras to get the all important shots of these majestic animals in their habitat.  The importance of these images comes to the fore when an imminent visit from an important man with links to President Putin himself is scheduled. But can Tomas track The Countess and her cubs and provide his exacting father with the necessary footage he needs to secure more investment, or will Tomas come back from the forest with more startling news?…..

Here, we move on to Edit’s story.  A woman who once belonged to the Udeghe people living in Russia but who has decided that the way of life there and her failing relationship with her husband Valery is not enough to keep her there.  She takes to the forest with her young daughter Zina where they scratch together an existence, with Edit always looking over her shoulder for danger in the form of the Siberian Tiger, an animal she feels holds a grudge and never forgets…..

Finally, the story is concluded with the point of view of the tiger.  The desperate hunt for food with her cubs, the survival instinct.

The story is rounded off with all of the segments weaving together to make a cohesive story.  The links between the characters and landscapes all dropping into place in the most satisfying of ways.

Whilst I did really enjoy each of the sections, I think my favourite story was Edit’s and her daughters.  The sheer determination of this woman to escape a life she was not happy in, leave the safety and the support of her family and her people and strike out on her own with her only child is quite something to read.

I enjoyed the link between the characters in each section, not just from a bringing the story together perspective but also the fact that they are all fairly lonely, disperate people.  Living life somewhat on the periphery in isolation.  Freida, with the after effects of her trauma, her all encompassing addiction and losing her grip on various cherished aspects of her life.  Tomas, living in a remote setting, his only company the motley crew of men who have also eschewed family life in favour of working on the reservation.  Finally Edit, a woman who has willingly turned her back on her family and community in search of a better life for her and her daughter.  The tigers themselves are somewhat on the periphary, prowling around looking for sustenance and doing what they can to survive, much like our protagonists.

As I said at the start of this review, I enjoy Polly’s writing style very much.  Her depictions of the cold, harsh landscapes were breathtaking.  Her fascination and love of the Siberian Tiger really comes across in her prose.  She quite assuredly brings the Tiger to life and its heart is beating throughout this book. 

I certainly learned a lot about not only the Tigers themselves but the Bonobo Monkeys and various other animals and their traits, a real Google book! It had me reaching for my phone to learn more.  I also took out the publicity sheet that came with the book to show my work colleagues just how huge the Siberian Tiger is. (I probably became a bit of a Tiger bore!).

There are sections in this book depicting encounters with the magnificent Tigers, be that within an enclosed zoo environment where the beast is in captivity, or out in the wilds of Siberia, where the animals are roaming free that really had my heart pumping and my blood pressure rising.  Some of these encounters are hair-raising to say the least and I really found myself transported there, barely breathing!

Such an atmospheric and unsual read with wildness and vital animal emotion running right through it.  I would recommend it as an unusual and captivating read.

Thank you so much again to Katya Ellis, Ana Sampson McLaughlin and Riverrun Books for giving me the opportunity to meet The Countess and her brood.

See you soon.

Amanda – Bookish Chat xx






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