The Tiger: A True Story Of Vengeance And Survival
April 2011: The Tiger, as its title claims, is a true and gripping story of a man-eater in Primorye, Russia that not only consumed its human prey, but hunted an individual poacher with motive and intent. The author’s scope is hugely ambitious and he succeeds in putting the reader within the mind, and yes, feelings, of both man and beast. In doing so, Vaillant makes the tiger of this tale the central character of the story, and a fearsome but highly sympathetic one.
The author moves seamlessly between his murder-mystery plot, in which so much is at stake for all the protagonists, including the hard-bitten men tasked with protecting the last of Russia’s magnificent tigers, and long, equally fascinating digressions into the national and regional history of the 1990s.
John Vaillant’s book hits that unusual mark of being essential for lay readers in search of absorbing works of anthropology and natural history, as well as the most knowledgeable tiger scientist/conservationist. Vaillant makes a fascinating attempt to probe the internal thought and emotive processes of this highly-intelligent, hard-living animal. I know of no other book on tigers that places an actual member of the species at the centre of the “story.” Through his book, Vaillant may succeed in reaching the hearts of many people who have hitherto thought of the tiger, when they think of it at all, as little more than a two-dimensional sports or corporate icon.
In addition, the author points out that the tiger’s habitat, the stunning forests of Primorye, is being logged to the last tree to supply cheap consumer goods to the world. He asks readers to consider before buying a solid oak toilet seat for a pittance. Its true price is much higher, in terms of tiger lives and magnificent forests. Highly recommended, this is one of the most moving books on the tiger in print. Read it, and go out and fight for this animal’s survival.
The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival
By John Vaillant
Published by Knopf, 2010,
Hardcover, 352 pages, Price: US $26.95
Reviewed by Jennifer Scarlott