2 May 2011

Review: "Tiger, Tiger"

In case you haven't noticed (and you probably have), "Tiger, Tiger" by Margaux Fragoso has been the centre of quite a bit of hype due to the peculiar (not sure that is the word) topic. It has been called a modern version of Nabokov's "Lolita", only told by Lolita and based on true events. So you see why there has been quite a bit of hype. Even though hype normally repels me, I have read some reviews that convinced me to give the book a chance.

The plot is disturbing to say the least. As a child Margaux lives with her tempremental, loving father and her mentally ill mother in an environment that would probably be traumatic in itself but when she is six-seven years old she meets Peter and then the real tragedy starts. Peter is 44 years older than Margaux and from the very beginning of their relationship he grooms her. He plays with her, lets her feel at home in his home and eventually introduces sex into the relationship. It is truly disturbing reading, it made me so sad and so enraged and really really frustrated because in the first part of the book, Margaux tells this story from the child's point-of-view, describing Peter as her friend and idol.
The fact that his intentions and actions are hardly questioned in this first part of the book made me so angry and disappointed in the author but then in the second half, the narrators reflections began to develop as she describes her teenage years. She reflects on the power the he has over her and the power that his memory of her 7-year-old self has over him and suddenly from a really wrong and depraved love story of starcrossed lovers in a forbidding society, this becomes a tragedy about a girl whose childhood and innocence is stolen and who is violated by someone claiming to protect her. The narrator's voice in this second half is so sad as she realizes the horror that has been inflicted on her.
For Margaux Fragoso it has been impossible to separate her own childhood from the literary attemps at telling the story - and by aiming for a story that is more than a "real-life-account", she puts herself in a difficult position. I found a quote on www.observer.com that I think sums up the issue very well:
"The cosmic profundity of what she has experienced—the book is invariably called "harrowing" in reviews and blurbs, and this characterization certainly applies to the underlying reality, if not exactly her representation of it—is inextricable from her gift as a narrator and contemplator of her own experience."

In the end I liked the book even though the story was horrific. I kept wishing that it was all fiction, all made up because it is such a tragedy. Also I would have liked Fragoso to reflect more on the topic. To be honest about the implications that this has had and to ensure that the book cannot be used as a defence for pedophiles. This brainwashed child robbed of something that she can never replace. Read it only if you are prepared to have it on your mind for days.


  1. I hadn't heard of this one yet. I think it's really interesting how she doesn't judge in the first part of the book - because how could a child that young know it was wrong and what it really means? I teach 7 year olds so this could be an uncomfortable read for me, but it sounds important.

  2. It felt important too when I read it. It is one of those really chilling reads where truth is almost too much.

  3. This sounds a bit too intense for me...but I can see why I would want to read it at the same time. I like stories that challenge the reader and makes them step out of their own little worlds, even if it's unbearable. Great review.