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Tiger Milk by Stefanie de Velasco

Tiger Milk

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Sarah Broadhurst's view...

A scary coming-of-age tale set in Berlin which has been a huge bestseller in its native Germany. We follow two fourteen year old girls longing to lose their virginity but frightened of sex. One is from a tragic Iraq childhood, the other the child of an alcoholic mother. Hidden from view they witness an honour killer resulting in colossal conflict. The guilt, betrayal, emotional agony and unexpected conclusion make for a gritty, gripping, excellent read. In an interesting stylistic choice the author has gone for almost no punctuation and has written a first-person, present tense narrative. This makes it a little hard to follow at first but does give the story an incredibly raw feel, creating a unique, powerful voice. It is not an easy read but a very rewarding one.

Who is Sarah Broadhurst

Reader Reviews

In addition, some of our Reader Review Panel were also lucky enough to read and review this title.

  • Catherine Jenkins - 'This is a book to be downed all in one go - knocked back like a shot of the "tiger milk" cocktail of the title, perhaps! really is unputdownable.' Read full review >
  • Linda Benner - 'I got involved with Tiger Milk. The atmosphere is palpable. On reading this book I felt as though I was picked up on a whirlwind and thrown into the lives of the characters.' Read full review >
  • Rachael Evason - 'Tiger Milk is a gripping, funny and emotional story about young teenagers in Berlin.' Read full review >
  • Julie Bertschin - 'This brutal observation of teenage life, set in the melting pot of immigrant communities in Berlin could be described as a modern day Romeo and Juliet; a stark portrayal of love, angst and murder.' Read full review >
  • Jacki Moorcroft - 'It is an interesting book to read and the relationship between the two main characters is touching...An exciting debut novel by Stefanie de Velasco who captures the rawness of life in Berlin.' Read full review >
  • Ann - 'This is a story of love and rebellion and is about a generation I do not understand but this book has drawn me closer to their troubles and anxieties.' Read full review >
  • Susan Walsh - 'A tale of two 14 year olds growing up in Berlin, their friends & families...A multi-cultural insight into friendships made & lost.'  Read full review >
  • Helen Lowry - 'The writing is quick and the pace moves on with the short, punchy sentences. Never a dull moment! The characters and imagery are believable and make the book an interesting read.' Read full review >
  • Catherine Price - 'Stefanie De Velasco’s style is fast-paced and gritty, with two central characters placed within an all-too-believable situation of cash-strapped dysfunctional families where fathers disappear overnight and deportation is a daily reality.' Read full review >
  • Alison Greenacre - 'An urban tale of two young girls growing up in Berlin.  It takes quite a dark path... and a word of warning there are no speech marks!' Read full review >


Tiger Milk by Stefanie de Velasco

We need to practise for later on, for real life. We need to know everything so nobody can ever mess with us.' Nini and Jameelah are best friends forever. This summer they're going to grow up. Together. On their terms. But things don't always turn out the way you plan...Tender, funny, shocking and tragic, TIGER MILK captures what it is to be young.


'Nails the tone of an untethered, feral generation'
Die Welt

'A major debut full of strength, pain and love

'A novel of rebellion, love, death, and an extraordinary friendship

'Fast, tough and wise'

'The prose is breathless ... revealing young ideas about the world and urgently pushing the story forward'

'Tiger Milk never stands still ... Tim Mohr's translation from the original German also captures this restless energy, the busy speech and constant action. De Velasco captures the sense of adolescence as a time of change and discovery We Love This Book.

'Follows two teenage friends on the destructive paths into adulthood. Hilarious and tender' Elle

'A beautifully written debut novel' Closer

'A novel of breathless urgency, which is also nostalgic for an innocence that is so readily cast aside' Financial Times

About the Author

Stefanie de Velasco

Stefanie de Velasco lives and works in Berlin. In 2011, she received the Literature Prize Prenzlauer Berg for the first chapters of Tiger Milk. This is her first novel.

Author photo © Joachim Gern

Below is a Q&A with this author.

Top 3 favourite books and did you draw any inspiration from these authors in writing your book?

Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

Ham on Rye by Bukowski

Yes I actually did. When I was a kid I was always jealous of all the boys in the novels, having so many adventures and the girls were always the ones in the pretty dresses playing hopscotch. Nini and Jameelah are a little bit like Tom and Huck. I also admire Bukowski for his vulgar but very tender language.

If I were a fictional character I’d be…

Anne Shirley of Lucy Maud Montgomery's books. When I was younger I tried to dye my hair and it turned out to be green and once hit a boy with a chalk board.

How do you find your next read?

I am a big fan of the classics. When I like a writer I usually read everything.

Which book do you wish you’d written?

I don't know, maybe Harry Potter? Oh no, that must be a crazy life. Poor JK Rowling.

Top ‘non-book’ piece of writing? (e.g. poem, short story, play, article etc.)

I'm a big Thomas Mann fan, but I don't get "Dr. Faustus". I don't know, what was up with him?

I also remember a terrible book, I was forced to read in school, it was something about a monster called Unugunu, that was terrorizing this nice family, telling them it would gas them if they didn't do what they want. It used to say, "bring me this or that (normally food from the fridge, if not I kill you with gas!). Seriously check it out on I mean it was for CHILDREN! I found that quite awkward especially reading such a book in Germany. Maybe it was a kind of post-war Freudian metaphor to work through German guilt?? I don't know. It was the weirdest thing ever.

On writing

Are there any fictional characters you wish you’d created?

Fictional characters are like gods. I really don't see the difference. You can call on them in bad times and ask for advice. For me, the most powerful characters are Tom and Huck, but also Rüdiger von Schlotterstein of Angela Sommer Bodenburg's Vampire novels in the 80's.

Where do you like to write?

I must admit that I don't like writing as much as I like reading or watching TV or painting my nails. It's like doing exercise. At first you don't feel like it at all, but afterwards you're happy you've done your day’s writing. That's why I need a very quiet and lonely place to focus and concentrate, like the library, my home or my office.

Did you get inspiration from any real places, events and individuals for you novel?

Yes, of course. Berlin is a very inspiring place for me, because it’s dirty and ugly, poor and cruel. This sounds very morbid I guess but cruelty and ugliness are the most inspiring things for me. I don't see beauty in it, don't get me wrong. But it's quite fascinating. Nobody wants it, but it seems to be part of our lives.

Are there any scenes in the novel that were particularly hard to write?

It took me a long time to finish the murder scene. I think it took me three months, because I wanted it to be shocking without being dramatic.

Are you writing a new book?/Can you tell us what your next project will be?

Yes I am! It is about a young boy from West Germany who moves to the outskirts of Berlin after the wall falls. He and his parents are pioneers of the Jehovah's witnesses who were the only minority persecuted by both the Nazi AND the Communist regimes. It is a novel about a young boy in the young German Republic. It is a novel of the ‘90's, a time when youth was still an attribute of rebellion.

Did you ever dream about your book? Did your dream influence your writing/the direction the book was going?

Yes I did. For example, a couple of days ago I had a nightmare about a boy who got stuck in a lift shaft and got killed. It was a glass elevator and I was the only person in it. I could see the boy but couldn't stop it happening. It was horrible. It was so real, I could hear him screaming and I could smell the blood and everything. Now I can't stop thinking about him, I see his shaved little head, and I know, someone put him there on purpose, but who, and...why? That's how it starts sometimes.

Which of your characters would you most like to meet/hang out with? And which would you least like to meet/hang out with?

Uff. Sometimes I think Nini and Jammelah are fun, but hanging out with them all the time would also be very tiresome, since they talk non stop! I think I would go for Nico or Jameelah's mom Noura. I wonder what kind of story she would tell me about her husband and her son in Iraq. I feel a lot of empathy for her.

What kind of research did you do to write this book?

I must admit, I don't really believe in research. I did a little where it was necessary, but normally I prefer to let my imagination roll. Sometimes I even get angry when I read about a book or a film and the newspapers say, how perfect and accurate the research is, and then you read the book or watch the movie and you think, yeah so what, it's still super boring. Literature is not about copying reality, it's about a truth that lies beyond reality, it's a big lie, you create a lie, which is the fiction, but you put all the truth from real life in it and that makes it feel real, and that's what comforts us, that's what helps us in real life. In the end we are all narrative beings.

What is a typical day like for you when writing?

I am a morning person. I wake up early and walk my dog, Pinsel, to my office and write until lunchtime. I eat. Sometimes I continue writing in the afternoon, but normally I take a long walk with the dog, and then I meet friends, or I go to the movies. I love the movies. When I'm in the process of writing it's really hard for me to read books, because they spoil my writing, my language. It's like too many people talking to me.

In one sentence, describe your writing style.

Raw, but tender? I don't know. You better do;-)

On being a debut novelist

Do you have another job/what did you do before becoming a writer? Does this feed into your writing at all?

I used to be an actress before I started writing. Sometimes I still do that and it really helps me, because it's the opposite of writing. It's with real people and you have to move your body! I also do some ghostwriting, I like it, it's fun.

Do you have any previous writing experience? How did writing this book differ from your previous experience?

I started writing for erotic magazines. The cheap one you get at train stations. Do you have that in the UK? Really cheesy titles, and the characters are either royalty or nurses. It really helped me to work on my style without any pressure.

Did anything surprise you during the writing process? (e.g. Was it more difficult or easier than you expected? Did you end up changing a lot from the first draft?)

I expected it to be hard and it was hard. I barely had a social life. I have promised myself that it won't be the same next time. I have just bought a dining table so I can invite people over for dinner once in a while.

I write chronologically. I only continue once I'm satisfied with what I've written before, so, no, I didn't change a lot from my first draft.


Dream dinner party guests?

Charles Bukowski, Hannah Arendt, Whitney Houston, Holly Golightly, Stephen King and...George W. Bush, so we have someone we can make fun of.

Five desert island items?/What can’t you live without?

Chicken broth, german bread, my Star Styling Hoodie, the complete works of Enid Blyton, Kuschelrock-Cassettes from the 90's.

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Book Info

Publication date

9th April 2015


Stefanie de Velasco

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Head of Zeus


256 pages


Literary Fiction
Relationship Stories
eBook Favourites

Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)



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