The Night Tiger
As books go, THE NIGHT TIGER unsettles me. On one hand, it haunts with magic and fantastical images of men who change into tigers and vice versa; on the other hand, it is gruesome and far-fetched.
Set in 1930’s Malaya (Malaysia, today), it tells entwined stories of a young 11-year-old houseboy whose task is to return a severed finger to the grave of his newly deceased master, and a young woman who accidentally comes into possession of a severed finger. The same finger? I don’t know. Whatever, there is superstition involved for both.
What worked for me in THE NIGHT TIGER? I found the main characters totally likeable; I truly cared what happened to them. I enjoyed learning about another culture. And the author, Yangsze Choo, read the audiobook herself and was incredible.
That said, there was so much packed into this story that I had trouble following it. Was it magic? Realism? Culture? Lore? Fantasy? Romance? Murder mystery?
In comparison to the rest of the book, the climactic event of the mystery seemed almost simplistic. Some readers criticized the love story between the young woman and her half-brother. But if they are not related by blood, is there a ‘yuk’ here? Not for me. I found their relationship sweet from childhood — indeed, the most lovely thing about this book.
THE NIGHT TIGER received starred reviews from Kirkus, Booklist, and PW, as well as rave reviews from NPR, USA Today, and even National Geographic. So maybe I’ve missed something?
It’s also possible that this book was more confusing to listen to than to read in print. I actually did borrow a copy and read the last few chapters, and, yes, it was easier to follow in print. It was also easier to skim.
Bottom line? Lots of people loved this one. Me? Meh.