Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Tigers in Red Weather
by Liza Klaussmann

Tigers in Red Weather by Liza Klaussmann

Like Wish You Were Here by Stewart O'Nan, which I posted about earlier this month (see post), Tigers in Red Weather concerns itself with an extended family and their interpersonal relationships using time spent together at a summer cottage (this time on Martha's Vineyard) as a catalyst.  The novel is also told variously from the perspectives of the individual family members, but Tigers in Red Weather has a series of first-person narrators rather than one third person omniscient.

While Wish You Were Here takes place over a single week, Tigers in Red Weather unfolds over twenty-plus years. From the end of World War through the late 1960s (with a bit of a flashback to the war years), Tigers in Red Weather follows first (female) cousins Nick and Helena (and Nick's husband Hugh) as they adjust to post-war and married life. Their children Ed and Daisy join the narrative as they reach the age of reason, spending their summers at Tiger House.

Throughout the novel there's an air of mystery and deep-seated secrets. One summer there's a murder on the Vineyard, and while that adds to the intrigue, it's never really a question of whodunnit. Rather the focus of Tigers in Red Weather is on interfamilial deceptions, the lies individual characters tell themselves and each other.

Unfortunately, it was difficult to connect with any of the central characters. Two of them were repugnant the majority of the time. The others ranged from generally likeable to vaguely incomprehensible, but all suffered from some level of inconsistency within their characters that made them at best unsympathetic, but at worst unbelievable.

I will say that the novel's ending is unexpected and quite well done.

The poem that no doubt inspired the novel's title, and which appears in part at the very end of the narrative: "Disillusionment of Ten O'Clock" by Wallace Stevens (1915)
The houses are haunted
By white night-gowns.
None are green,
Or purple with green rings,
Or green with yellow rings,
Or yellow with blue rings.
None of them are strange,
With socks of lace
And beaded ceintures.
People are not going
To dream of baboons and periwinkles.
Only, here and there, an old sailor,
Drunk and asleep in his boots,
Catches tigers
In red weather.
"Disillusionment of Ten O'Clock" was first published in the collection, Harmonium.
disclosure: I received a review copy of Tigers in Red Weather from Little Brown & Co. via NetGalley.

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