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A True Story of Vengeance and Survival

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

Penelope Allen
March 12, 2011

"Tigers bloom where there's oodles of room." Zodiac Zoo


The following comments are for "John Vaillant - The Tiger"
by Pen

@ Lucie
Thank you for your critique of this 'review' and I'll happily admit it's a far cry from johnjohndoe's expertise. However, I was so impressed with The Tiger I just had to write something.

What is it about your new knowledge that you might want to communicate to readers of your book review?

I believe your question wasn't rhetorical so I'll provide a few tidbits about what I learned because I read Mr. Vaillant's book.

*The region is called the Primorye and is the "meeting place of four distinct bioregions".
*Mr. Vaillant suggests it could be described as "Boreal Jungle" due to the "blended nature" in which "creatures of the subartic have been overlapping with those of the subtropic since before the last Ice Age". Wolves and reindeer share their surroundings with spoonbills, venomous snakes, 25 pound vultures and saber-beaked jungle crows. Common trees of the boreal forest such as birch, spruce, oak and fir grow beside wild kiwis, giant lotus, 60 foot tall lilacs, magnolia vines and wild grapes.
As someone who lived on the fringes of civilization in what I believe was boreal forest and endured long winters of semi-darkness and deep cold this was quite a surprise to me.
I also learned that the 'Primorye" capital of Vladivostok is closer to Australia than it is to Moscow. The city is a two day train journey from Beijing and 5,800 miles, or a week, away from Russia's capital. There isn't another city in the world so far away from its national capital.
*Vladivostok is "further south than the French Riviera" but the bays "stay frozen until April". There are blizzards and biting cold in the winter and summer brings typhoons and monsoon rains.

I was provided with the striking image of giant ladybugs coloured in reverse climbing their way "like animated wallpaper" in kitchens in the "dead of winter".

This, and much more, I learned in the first 30 pages of the book as Mr. Vaillant introduced me to this remote area of the world. Why this lover of fiction was so entranced with The Tiger is because a fine writer is that adept.

( Posted by: Pen [Member] On: March 15, 2011 )

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