Tigers in Red Weather by Liza Klaussmann
Official Summary: “Nick and her cousin, Helena, have grown up sharing sultry summer heat, sunbleached boat docks, and midnight gin parties on Martha’s Vineyard in a glorious old family estate known as Tiger House. In the days following the end of the Second World War, the world seems to offer itself up, and the two women are on the cusp of their ‘real lives’: Helena is off to Hollywood and a new marriage, while Nick is heading for a reunion with her own young husband, Hughes, about to return from the war.
Soon the gilt begins to crack. Helena’s husband is not the man he seemed to be, and Hughes has returned from the war distant, his inner light curtained over. On the brink of the 1960s, back at Tiger House, Nick and Helena—with their children, Daisy and Ed—try to recapture that sense of possibility. But when Daisy and Ed discover the victim of a brutal murder, the intrusion of violence causes everything to unravel. The members of the family spin out of their prescribed orbits, secrets come to light, and nothing about their lives will ever be the same.
Brilliantly told from five points of view, with a magical elegance and suspenseful dark longing, Tigers in Red Weather is an unforgettable debut novel from a writer of extraordinary insight and accomplishment.”
Tigers in Red Weather is the first novel from Liza Klaussmann, the great-great-great granddaughter of Herman Melville, which has heightened the anticipation for the book for many. The story follows two cousins, Nick and Helena, and their families in the post-World War II period as they struggle through familial conflict, personal problems and even a murder that combine to give the book a feeling of melodrama. It is structured non-chronologically with sections of the book being told by each of five different characters, moving frequently back and forth through time to include glimpses of events that occurred during the War.
Much of the book is centered around time that the family members spend on Martha’s Vineyard. This has been the location of family activities since the girls were young and continues to be a location that they return to as adults, bringing their own children. But, returning to this childhood haunt doesn’t necessarily bring peace to the family. Instead resentments grow between the family members as they repeatedly fail to truly understand one another.
In large part because of its non-chronological structure, the book builds more suspense than I expected. In the end, the reader wants to know not only who the murderer is, but also wants to learn the many secrets that the family alludes to throughout the book. Klaussmann made a clear effort to evoke the time periods she describes and many of the historic details ring very true. I enjoyed the way that she included minor details that really conjure the post-War years for the reader. Overall, her descriptions are a real strength of the book, whether they are the descriptions of weather on the island or the descriptions of people in the family’s circle.
While I definitely found that the book kept me engaged and made me want to know what would happen next, I thought much of the book was a bit overdone. The plot frequently seemed contrived because of the many shocking secrets and questionable choices of the characters. In particular, at the end of the book there are suddenly several plot twists and throw away additions to the plot that strain credibility. Even though the book didn’t fully work for me, I think readers with an interest in post-War stories and period melodramas will find it entertaining.
Check it Out: Tigers in Red Weather is currently available as an ebook, an audiobook and a hardcover.
Readalike: Those who enjoy Tigers in Red Weather should consider trying Heading Out to Wonderful by Robert Goolrick, which is also a story about the post-War years.
Note: Review based on ARC from publisher.