Polly Clark’s Tiger is a sweeping tale of survival that travels from a small zoo to the wild expanse of the Siberian taiga. The brilliant cast of characters includes Frieda, a primatologist struggling to overcome her drug addiction following a violent attack; Tomas, a tiger conservationist in Siberia; Edit and Zina, an Udeghe huntress and her daughter who are living alone out in the wilderness; and the Countess, a majestic tiger feared and revered by conservationists and desired as the ultimate prize by poachers.
Frieda’s career is thrown off course when she is caught taking drugs at work, and she is sent away to clean the cages of a small zoo at the other end of the country. She is devastated, but soon develops a bond with a new tiger that will change her life for ever. Divided into four sections, each focusing on a different character, the story unfolds gradually as the gaps are filled in and the journey the new tiger has taken to end up in this zoo is revealed. With a predominantly female cast of characters, Polly Clark has done a brilliant job of writing and developing her protagonists and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know them all, including their flaws, and felt deeply invested in their struggle to overcome the odds stacked against them.
Polly Clark is an excellent writer, and the research she has put into this novel shines through in every detail. She herself has worked as a keeper at Edinburgh Zoo and she also travelled to the Siberian taiga to research this novel, both of which add a great deal of authenticity to the story. The descriptions of the landscapes and the relationships between human and nature, as well as the eternal struggle for survival out in the wilderness, were absolutely fascinating to me and I devoured this book. I love well-crafted stories where you can feel the pieces falling into place as you read on, and for me Tiger was an excellent example of this. The stunning images created by Polly Clark’s words have stayed in my mind, and I would certainly recommend this novel to others.
Tiger by Polly Clark was published by riverrun (Quercus) on 2 May 2019.