Tigers in Red Weather by Liza Klaussmann

A quick rundown… The story of Nick and her cousin Helena, from their younger days to when their children grow up. Families are not always the easiest to get along with…

Strengths: Liked the multiple character viewpoints

Weaknesses: Wasn’t expecting such a dark plot thread from the cover!

Why I read it: Sent to me by The Reading Room – thank you!

Pages: 385 (ARC)

Published: 2012

Publisher: Picador

Setting: America

Rating: 8 out of 10

Tigers in Red Weather first came to my attention by the gorgeous cover – it suggested lazy summer days of long ago (not to mention retro fashion). But underneath this innocent cover lies a wealth of themes from infidelity to murder. It does contain long hot days of summers from the 1940s to the 1960s but there’s a dark undercurrent running through it.

Tigers in Red Weather is told by five different characters – first Nick, who is trying to adjust to life as a military wife and then later, her daughter Daisy who with her cousin Ed, who finds a corpse one summer. The tale then moves to Daisy’s father and Nick’s husband Hughes – war time love affairs and what to do with something quite sinister. He’s followed by Nick’s cousin and Ed’s mother, Helena, who is suffering marital problems that leads to problems. Finally, we hear from Ed to sum up if the reader’s suspicions are correct.

I’m deliberately not describing the plot in this review because I think one of the strengths is in how the themes are revealed. With each character, we get just a little more detail each time and can piece the issues together. The climax is truly gripping and will raise a lot of questions about what is right and what is wrong to do in the circumstances. As the book is so multilayered, it is also a good choice for book groups as there are many topics to be covered!

Klaussmann’s writing reminded me of both Richard Yates and F. Scott Fitzgerald. There are elements of pathos, of missing something but not being sure exactly what and looking for that elusive final clue to complete happiness. Is it a co-incidence that Nick’s daughter is called Daisy? (There’s a character in The Great Gatsby called Daisy). However, Klaussmann’s Daisy is (eventually) a lot wiser, while Nick is somewhat more like Gatsby in her pursuit of endless fun. All characters have a problem – whether it’s drinking, pills or something more sinister and their flaws only serve to make them more interesting. I wish the structure was a little tighter, but the novel still pulls quite an impact.

This is a solid debut and I’ll be interested to pick up Klaussmann’s next book. Her characterisation and settings that evoke endless summer days are a pleasure to read.

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