Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “Liza Klaussmann”

Funkyfacecat’s #CBR4 Review 21: Tigers in Red Weather by Liza Klaussmann

I first found out about this book in ElCicco’s review, and as well as the plot summary, I was struck by both the title and the cover – it evoked F. Scott Fitzgerald and Sylvia Plath’s Journals  and all sorts of vague images of post-war Americana. The UK cover is a bit different , but still nice enough for me to succumb to buying the book brand new in hardcover, which I am usually far too broke to do.

The title of Tigers in Red Weather, taken from a Wallace Stevens poem (randomly alluded to in the text), is oddly fitting for this tale of the teeth behind affectionate family smiles. Nick is a strong and strangely beautiful woman, married to Hughes who she barely knew before the war – both are deeply in love but tempted elsewhere. Helena is her cousin, also married to a man she hardly knows, who promises to take care of her and does it by encouraging her to take “mother’s little helper” tranquillizers and amphetamines. Nick’s daughter Daisy (Gatsby reference?) is golden and unhappy in love, Helena’s son Ed is an aloof observer, warped by his father. Their holiday paradise on Martha’s Vineyard is disturbed by a murder, and suggestions that one of the family may have been involved on some level.

Most of the book I really enjoyed – Nick is a charming and well-drawn character, even if she isn’t particularly original – she’s basically Daisy from The Great Gatsby grown up, after a war that’s scarred her but lightly. Her fraught, fragile moments, however, are evocative, and as is her struggle to love the man she’s with. Her daughter is also naive, fond, foolish – her agonies of first love are very relatable. The other side of the family doesn’t fare as well; Helena is quite uninteresting and often exasperating, and her son seems like he crept in from another novel entirely.

Nick, her husband Hughes, Daisy, Helena and Ed each have their own chapter. Ed’s chapter is the most jarring; he doesn’t fit in with the rest of the chapters. I suspect his chapter is supposed to show the others up in sharp relief, causing us to re-evaluate everything else, and it probably symbolises all sorts of things, but to me it just felt…cheap and unnecessary. It kind of dampened my enjoyment of the whole book, which is generally well-written, particularly with regard to atmosphere – the clinking of ice and cigarette smoke form a constant low-tempo background to the plot. It will be interesting to see what Klaussmann writes next.

ElCicco#CBR4Review#32: Tigers in Red Weather by Liza Klaussmann

The title of this book comes from a line in the Wallace Stevens poem “A Disillusionment of Ten O’Clock,” and the characters in this novel face much disillusionment and disappointment while chasing after tigers of their own. What starts off as a story of relationships and the strains that separation, wealth and time can place on them, turns into a dark, psychological thriller.

The story centers on five characters who each get a chapter to give their view of events that occurred during and shortly after World War II, the late fifties and the 1960s. Within each chapter, events do not always follow chronological order, but this actually makes the story more interesting as the reader slowly puts the pieces together. The action begins with the story of Nick (female) and Helena, cousins who are like sisters, having grown up together on Cape Cod at Nick’s family’s summer home, Tiger House. Nick’s family is wealthy, Helena’s is poor and has had to rely for support on Nick’s family. Nick is clearly the dominant female in the relationship and Helena is accommodating and submissive. Each has  married, suffered loss and separation. Each is starting a new chapter in life at the end of the war, with Helena newly married and moving to California while Nick and her husband, just back from the war, move to Florida.

Nick is a domineering woman with striking looks and a difficulty with compromise. Those  who know her, seem to both love and hate her. Her marriage with Hughes hits a rough patch when he returns from the war before a revelation or two cause Nick to make some important decisions about how she needs to “be” in order to keep her husband and have the sort of life she wants. Helena, on the other hand, seems to be swept along by the events in her life, not exerting any force or control over them, and resenting Nick’s interference and judgments but also needing her help at several critical junctures. Nick, Hughes and Helena each have a chapter in Tigers in Red Weather.

The other two chapters belong to Nick’s daughter Daisy and Helena’s son Ed. The cousins have a close relationship based on summers spent together at Tiger House. When they are both 12, they discover a dead body on the island. Their chapters look at this event along with several other important events of the summer of 1959, and then follow the characters into the ’60s. Daisy has an unsatisfactory relationship with her mother and is clearly the apple of her father’s eye. Ed is a strange boy — a loner who seems often to be in places he should not be, see things he should not see and know things he should not know. The relationship between Ed and Daisy’s father Hughes is particularly interesting, as Hughes thinks there is something really “off” about the boy, but tries to help in order to please Nick and avert further problems for Helena and Ed. The big revelations come in Ed’s chapter, but each character along the way reveals shameful truths about their own actions, or inaction, as the case may be.

Tigers in Red Weather has well drawn characters who can elicit sympathy and disgust from the reader, and a clever plot with a gripping (kinda creepy) resolution.

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