I am currently in true missionary form. In my case, this fever overcomes me when I find a book I love and am not happy until I have given a copy to everyone I know, and/or persuaded them to read it. Brother No.2 has already received his birthday copy and the remainder of the male members of my family better brace themselves for the oncoming thump of delivery. I specify male members of my family, partly because I am long on male relations with three brothers, but also because I am always delighted when I find a book that I think has universal appeal. I am not being sexist on this but I do think men and women do in general read predominantly different books.
The chosen book is The Tiger by John Vaillant; a nonfiction account of the hunt for a man-eating tiger in a remote area of Russia. It couldn’t have sounded less like the type I thing that I normally enjoy, but I was lured into the purchase by my fabulous local bookshop Pages and Pages. In a plug for independent bookshops, though I do admit to the occasional guilt-ridden brief fling with Amazon, in the end I love having a local bookshop with staff members who read the books with enthusiasm and persuade you into the unknown.
The book is set in a region that immediately had me reaching for the atlas as, to my shame, I had never heard of it before: Primorye Territory. If you are smirking with pleasure that you can pinpoint the place on a map, all I can say is that you were paying more attention than I was when the topic of the Russian Far East regions was covered.
What I found most extraordinary about the book was that it recounts the events of December 1997, but as I was reading it I felt as if I was entering into another time, perhaps a century ago, rather than reading about things that were happening thirteen years ago. Descriptions of daily life and the background of participants in the drama create a world that was different in almost every respect to one in which I was inhabiting in London in 1997.
I am now completely exhilarated to find that Brad Pitt’s production company bought the film rights to The Tiger back in August, and I feel vindicated in my enthusiasm for the book. Obviously, I am not going to go head to head with Angelina on the physical front, I am happy to hand that crown over graciously, but it is a comfort that Brad and I have got literary enthusiasms in common.