Tyger Tyger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame they fearful symmetry?
(William Blake 1794)
From the striking cover, tigers have a presence in Myfanwy Jones’ novel Leap, shortlisted for the 2016 Miles Franklin Literary Award. Every week, on the same day, at the same time, Elise visits the zoo. Escaping a faltering marriage and the pain of grief, she is drawn to the tiger enclosure, where she sits, watches and draws.
Joe works shifts in cafes and bars, mentors the troubled Deck and spends his spare time training in parkour, a discipline that involves moving within a complex environment without the use of any assistive equipment. He runs, climbs, jumps and rolls, all in preparation to make the leap. Joe is also consumed by grief and guilt.
As the story moves between Joe and Elise, the tragic death of Jen is slowly revealed, piece by piece. Jen is vibrant, intense, passionate.
…she would come for him, stealthily then full throttle, ready to tear out his heart…But he couldn’t stay away from her, and she couldn’t leave him be.
LEAP is a beautiful urban fairytale about human and animal nature, and the transformative power of grief. While at its heart is a searing absence, this haunting and addictive novel is propelled by an exhilarating life force, and the eternally hopeful promise of redemptive love.
Like Elise, I am drawn to tigers. Of all the animals in the zoo, it is the tigers I love best – huge, solitary, deadly. Their curved canines are the longest of any of the big cats, reaching up to 90mm. Males can measure up to almost 4 metres in length and weigh up to 306 kilograms, depending on species. While one of the most popular and charismatic of the mega fauna, tigers have been listed as endangered since 1986, with a current global population of between 3,000 – 4,000.
We have a long history of being fascinated with the beauty and power of the tiger. They are featured in mythology and folklore, claimed as national animals and team mascots, and can take pride of place among the stuffed toy collection of many a child. My own tiger, pictured with Leap, has traversed this country, accompanying me as I have moved from place to place and has survived in one piece. It would indeed be a most terrible shame if future generations only knew tigers from the pages of a book.
I really enjoyed reading Leap and I look forward to reading more from Myfanwy Jones. I think tigers must be close to her heart too, for she has dedicated proceeds from the sale of Leap to the WWF Save Tigers Now campaign.