By the time she and her lifelong friend Zóra begin to inoculate the children there, she feels age-old superstitions and secrets gathering everywhere around her. Secrets her outwardly cheerful hosts have chosen not to tell her.
Secrets involving the strange family digging for something in the surrounding vineyards. Secrets hidden in the landscape itself.
But Natalia is also confronting a private, hurtful mystery of her own: the inexplicable circumstances surrounding her beloved grandfather’s recent death. After telling her grandmother that he was on his way to meet Natalia, he instead set off for a ramshackle settlement none of their family had ever heard of and died there alone. A famed physician, her grandfather must have known that he was too ill to travel. Why he left home becomes a riddle Natalia is compelled to unravel.
Grief struck and searching for clues to her grandfather’s final state of mind, she turns to the stories he told her when she was a child. On their weekly trips to the zoo he would read to her from a worn copy of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, which he carried with him everywhere; later, he told her stories of his own encounters over many years with “the deathless man,” a vagabond who claimed to be immortal and appeared never to age.
But the most extraordinary story of all is the one her grandfather never told her, the one Natalia must discover for herself. One winter during the Second World War, his childhood village was snowbound, cut off even from the encroaching German invaders but haunted by another, fierce presence: a tiger who comes ever closer under cover of darkness. “These stories,” Natalia comes to understand, “run like secret rivers through all the other stories” of her grandfather’s life. And it is ultimately within these rich, luminous narratives that she will find the answer she is looking for. – Publishers Website
I really enjoyed this book. I originally had gotten it because it was on the long list for the Orange Prize. I was immediately absorbed into the story within a story within a story. Starting with the death of her grandfather, the grief, pain and questions why he went away from his home to die was the first questions on her mind. As she travels between her job as a Doctor and locating her grandfathers belongings where he died is just at the tip of the iceberg. Written with the grace and style of someone who is not only learned but talented, Tea does it effortlessly, and get this she is only in her mid 20’s and it is her first novel. I cannot begin to even wait for her latest, I want it here already. This is the book that did win the 2011 Orange Prize for Fiction. She is the youngest winner of that prize ever !!