A True Story of Vengeance and Survival
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Iím going to begin this book review by confessing that I so rarely read nonfiction that Iíve got little experience as to the merits of such texts. However, I do know when a writer has skill and Mr. John Vaillant has plenty of that.
Mr. Vaillant had a Governor Generalís award for nonfiction, The Golden Spruce, to his credit when he published The Tiger. If not for CBC radio I would have known nothing about this author. After hearing him being interviewed twice, once in September and then again in December of last year I made a special trip to Nanaimo to purchase this book as a Christmas present for my daughter-in-law. I got the last one in stock and considered myself extremely fortunate knowing I would be able to read it when Wendy was finished.
When I bought the book I didnít know, or perhaps I'd forgotten, that a portion of the proceeds were being donated towards Tiger conservation efforts in Eastern Russia. I did know it was the Year of the Tiger which seemed, being a Tiger myself. to be an auspicious time to buy such a book.
Wendy found the book a hard read even though sheís fonder of nonfiction than I am. She didnít care for all the Russian history references which, to her, seemed irrelevant. I love history and, in particular, have a keen interest in everything Russian so I knew I would welcome such information.
I began reading this book a few days ago and just finished it tonight. I now know far more about this remote area of Russia and the Tigers and people who inhabit it.
Upon doing some rudimentary research for related internet links I am delighted to report that John Vaillant's The Tiger won both the National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction, which has a prize of $40,000, and the Bookie Award for best book of 2010.
I recommend this book to anyone who:
* Loves Tigers.
* Recognizes that truth can be a riveting read.
* Enjoys history thatís compelling despite being illogical and frustrating.
* Accepts the spiritual world can have an acute edge when survival borders on surreal.
* Is interested in humanity living on the fringes of civilization and coping despite horrendous conditions.
* Appreciates exceptional writing skills of an author, who takes the time to research the topic in depth and on site, with a respectful attitude towards those who share their experiences.
As a sidebar: It is with the utmost pride that I can attest to the fact that Mr. Vaillant and I shared the same CBC radio broadcast on January 30th, 2011. The NXNW guest host, Paolo Pietropaolo, chose that morning to honour the Tiger in the waning days of its Chinese Zodiac year. The serendipity of this chain of events is positively delicious to me!
CBC Book Club
John Vaillant The Tiger Facebook page
January 30th NXNW link
March 12, 2011
"Tigers bloom where there's oodles of room." Zodiac Zoo