This memoir and first book by American author Margaux Fragoso was veritable literary dynamite when it came out in 2011. Or you could call it literary vegemite, in that you will either love the book or hate it.
Tiger Tiger charts the complex sexual relationship of the author Margaux with Peter Curran, which began when she was 7 and Curran 51 years old. For the next 15 years until Curran’s death by suicide, the two spent their days together and alone in an intimate, sexual and yet psychologically confusing domestic milieu.
Peter, like many of his ilk, gradually built up trust with her family and is seen tragically by both of her parents as a positive and wholesome influence. A seven year old Margaux lies to her parents and friends about the nature of their relationship, which was fraught with sinister undertones and secret symbolism.
“Our world had been permitted only by the secrecy surrounding it,” Fragoso writes.” Had you taken away the lies and codes and looks and symbols and haunts, you would have taken everything.”
Curran, the mature and psychologically manipulative adult, is able to completely enrapture Margaux the child with his persuasive ideas on their private love and sexual relationship. It’s a convincing ‘Us against the World’ philosophy.
The result is a suffocating and disturbing way of living that renders Margaux too young and naive to recognise the situation for what it is. Although Margaux, once corrupted by Peter is able to wield a sort of perverse sexual power over Peter of her own. A taunting, teasing and all-too-adult kind of power.
Many psychologists and counsellors alike would write-off this book and say that this is an open-and-shut case of an abused child sympathising with her abuser.
The author Margaux has tried here to assert her own narrative onto the bleak and hopeless landscape of survivor novels. Margaux’s narrative is not only about victimisation and being destroyed by sexual abuse – although that is also part and parcel of such a story. Instead this narrative is about love, shared connection and friendship. Granted a suffocating and unhealthy form of love, but an enduring love nonetheless.
Casting sexual abuse in such a light is always going to be problematic, but if one girl thinks of her experience in this way, then perhaps this may resonate with many others too. In no way am I condoning sexual abuse in any way – it’s just that freedom of artistic expression is exactly that – freedom of expression, in spite of what others may think.
With explicit and frank scenes of sexual encounters – the reader may be left utterly flabbergasted and shocked. These parts of the book make for a chilling and challenging read.
I couldn’t put it down but that may be because of its shocking and disturbing nature. Reading this book made me feel dirty and unsavoury, as though I needed to have a shower afterwards.
Margaux Fragoso completed a Ph.D. in English and creative writing at Binghamton University. Her short stories and poems have appeared in The Literary Review and Barrow Street, among other literary journals. She tragically passed away in 2014 from Ovarian cancer, but her controversial legacy lives on in the form of her only published book.