It begins beside a swimming pool, in America, not long after the war has ended.
Cousins Nick and Helena have spent the war years together at the Tiger House,
their family’s summer home on the exclusive East Coast Island of Martha’s
Vineyard. Their lives are about to change. Hughes, Nick’s husband, is coming
home and Helena, whose first husband died early in the war, has plans to remarry and move to the West Coast with a charming man who does something, she isn’t sure quite what, in the film industry.
Their lives change, and neither has the future that she expected.
`Tigers in Red Weather’ follows their lives over the next quarter century. Five narrators take up the story in turn, and their accounts shift backwards and forwards in time. At times that was unsettling, but at times seeing the same events through different eyes brought them into clearer focus. And seeing the characters’ journeys, how they behaved, how they were at different points in their lives made them all the more
They weren’t likeable, I didn’t feel close to them, but they were real, complex, fallible human beings, and I wanted to understand them and to know what happened to them.
The centre point was an incident in the summer of 1959. Nick’s daughter, Daisy, and Helena’s son, Ed, found a body in the woods. That sent shock waves through the community, through the family, and the repercussions would be felt for a long, long time.
Otherwise this is a fairly quiet book, but it is a book in which life happens, and key moments that define characters and relationships, that shift perceptions are clearly illuminated.
This really is an accomplished debut novel. Lisa Klaussman’s prose in lovely – cool, elegant, polished – perfectly matched to her subject matter, and she has a lovely turn of phrase.
She captures the time and the place, bringing it to life, and again highlighting exactly the right details.
And as their lives changed, and as their lives changed them, I continued to believe in her characters.
My only concern was that I was kept at a distance. I was a fascinated observer, but I wasn’t emotionally involved.
The second half of the book was not quite as strong as the first, though there was more tension to make up for that. And the right narrator, the most intriguing narrator was held back to the very end.
And what an end! It was stunning, and it made me think again, about everything.
I can understand why many haven’t cared for this book. Certainly if you prefer plot driven stories, linear narratives, characters to care for, this may not be the book for you.
But I think that it does what it does rather well. So, if you’re in two minds, do give Tigers in Red Weather the benefit of the doubt.
I can’t say it’s perfect, but I can say that its a fascinating debut, by an author who looks to have the potential to – maybe – do great things in the future.