Tigers in Red Weather

Liza Klaussmann

Tigers in Red Weather
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Tigers in Red Weather

Liza Klaussmann

The epitome of East Coast glamour, Tiger House is where the beautiful and the damned have always come to play in summer, scene of martinis and moonlit conspiracies, and newly inherited by the sleek, beguiling Nick. The Second World War is just ending, Nick’s cousin Helena has left her in search of married bliss in Hollywood, and Nick’s husband is coming home. Everything is about to change. Their children will surprise them. A decade later, on the cusp of adolescence, Nick’s daughter and Helena’s son make a sinister discovery that plunges the island’s bright heat into private shadow. Summer seemed to arrive at that moment, with its mysterious mixture of salt, cold flesh and fuel. Magnificently told by each of the five characters in turn, Tigers in Red Weather is a simmering novel of passion, betrayal and secret violence beneath a polished and fragile facade.

Review

liza1 Read our Q&A with Liza Klaussmann here.

Let me first deal with two items of publicity that will inevitably precede this book – one, it is the debut novel by Herman Melville’s great-great-great-granddaughter, Liza Klaussmann, and two, it was reportedly acquired by Picador in an eight-way auction, securing the author a two-book deal and a ‘six-figure sum’.

Yet this ancestry and hype should neither encourage nor deter. Rather, readers should tackle Tigers in Red Weather because it’s actually a wonderful novel.

If you read a book for well-drawn characters you can imagine living well beyond its covers, a vivid sense of place evoked through atmospheric prose and sharp dialogue, and a story you’ll ponder long after you’ve finished, then this is your book of the season.

In a five-part narrative, each giving voice to a different character over the span of 20 years, Klaussmann takes us into a culture of wealth and excess inhabited by Nick and her cousin, Helena. The story is set in the shadow of Tiger House, a family estate on Martha’s Vineyard, and begins as World War II draws to a close and life is in transition. As rations, austerity and separations end, relationships must begin again as the characters try to find their way in the world following a time of immense turmoil.

However, their lives prove no less tumultuous, and the plot is brimming with the fabulous alcohol-soaked parties, illicit affairs, family secrets and gruesome murder that make this an escapist read worthy of a languid afternoon perched atop a beach towel.

But the real surprises to be found in this novel, and its satisfying substance, are in its quiet and measured attention to the darker side of a privileged life that will appeal to lovers of The Great Gatsby, Brightness Falls, and (dare I say it?) Downton Abbey. A literary novel with a populist heart that will leave you chilled and exhilarated.


Alison Huber is a bookseller at Readings Carlton.

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