My book review of 'Tiger' by Polly Clark

by Polly Clark
by Polly Clark

Released in paperback in November 2020, 'Tiger' was my book club choice for BBC Radio Suffolk on Tuesday 1 December 2020, and we discussed it in our first meeting of the year on Tuesday 5 January 2021.

There are four interlinked stories, all giving a different perspective of the life of a magnificent, endangered creature.

We begin in a zoo with a zookeeper and learn of her personal challenges in life at the same time as finding out about the animals in her care, and how she is affected by an injured wild tiger.

We move on to a Russian conservationist who has to deal with poachers who threaten the lives and existence of the tigers.

Then there is a story of an indigenous people and how they exist alongside these beautiful but ferocious animals.

And finally we meet a tigress and her cub and she, the tiger, tells us her story. Getting inside a non-human mind without oversentimentality is beautifully done.  

There are so many elements to this book. We are introduced to the politics of conservation and poaching. We also read about the dynamics between mothers and daughters, nature and civilisation. We are immersed in the snowy, icy wilderness and learn about hunting, the pursuit of the tiger and ever present danger.

It’s a very powerful and atmospheric book. It makes your heart race, and causes you to shiver with the cold. 

The author is a poet and a novelist but has had various interesting jobs in the process – she worked as a groom for showjumpers, a ranger for the Wildfowl Trust and a zookeeper at Edinburgh Zoo, and she likes to immerse herself in her subject when she’s writing.

For this book she was able to travel to Siberia and spend time in the Russian wilderness learning how to track tigers. She has details about this on her website and it looks and sounds very gruelling! It means that the book in parts reads almost like a memoir. There’s certainly an immediacy about some of the descriptions. It’s very vivid. And many sections are poetic in their descriptions.

You put the book down feeling rather stunned, I think, at getting this vast, broad sweep of the life of this beautiful, powerful animal.

Polly talked to me about the book for its release in 2019, launched at Felixstowe Book Festival. And I also enjoyed her debut novel 'Larchfield'.

Polly Clark (l), author of 'Tiger', with Catherine Larner (r).



Date of this review: January 2021