John Vaillant’s THE TIGER
I am not a big non fiction reader and usually when I do read non fiction it is about the Second World War. After some very favorable recommendations (including this one here
THE TIGER is like JAWS but with tigers…and true! It recounts a series of tiger attacks in far eastern Russia in 1997. The book is part detective story as a specially trained team, whose primary function is usually to protect tigers from poachers, is sent in to investigate what caused the initial tiger attack and then the subsequent attacks by the same tiger.
The narrative recreation of the tiger attacks is edge of the seat stuff and equally fascinating is the history built in and around this thrilling and horrific story. Vaillant weaves into the story a complex set of histories. The attacks took place outside Sobolonye, a very small village in the southeast corner of Russian, close to the Chinese border and the Sea of Japan. The book looks at the history of Russian settlement in the area, Russia’s history of conservation and the devastating effects Russia’s economy has had on the people and animals in Far Eastern Russia. Many people have been driven through desperation to poaching and trading on the black market.
The book also explores the history and mythology of tigers. From the unwritten laws of the wild (seemingly obeyed by man and beast alike) to the spiritual and magical elements tigers are said to possess.
This blending of histories gives the recounting of one tiger’s stalking of small village almost supernatural properties. I have never found a non fiction book to be so gripping and frightening. It will leave you breathless.