Tiger, Tiger by Margaux Fragoso

7th Jul 2011


Starting from when she first meets him age six and recounting the course of their interaction until Peter dies when she’s in her early twenties, the story is told with the seriousness the topic deserves, but without any overt judgement, opinion or interpretation of the events offered by her.

You read how he groomed her, how her parents ended up being unwittingly complicit, how the relationship changed from being merely inappropriate to becoming sexual, and how Peter questioned himself and his actions towards the end of his life.

It’s completely compelling, a story narrated at a pace that leads you through without driving you. Fragoso’s descriptions of Peter’s actions and her feelings are perfectly judged – a mix of enough detail for you to understand what has happened but not so much as to be repellently graphic.

In places her use of understatement is far more powerful than a lengthy account could ever be. She uses metaphor to great effect to demonstrate how she internalised what was happening to her, and writes beautifully what was taking place inside her own imagination, her coping mechanism for the awful truth of her childhood and teen reality.

Amazingly, Fragoso also manages to portray Peter and the other adults in her life on a level playing field. Peter isn’t vilified as he so easily could have been, and I didn’t get the feeling this was a kind of Stockholm syndrome in written form.

He is shown to be a highly flawed human rather than a monster. In some respects this adds to the story’s potency, because in a Daily Mail world of ‘them’ vs ‘our children’ it’s easier to judge paedophiles, than to confront the disturbing truth they are human too.

Without condoning or excusing the abuse she suffered, Fragoso somehow manages to weave a thought-provoking and haunting tale, that left me thinking about her story long after I’d finished reading.

Tiger, Tiger by Margaux Fragoso was published in March by Penguin. You can buy it in paperback £5.99, or get the Kindle edition for £4.99.

Rating: 4/5. Great story, well-crafted, and thought-provoking.

Other recommended reading: The classic paedophilia story is of course Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. If you’ve already read Lolita, why not find out more about Nabokov, and read The Enchanter by Lila Azam Zanganeh?

Johanna Derry