Angela Elizabeth's Reviews > Tigers in Red Weather

Tigers in Red Weather by Liza Klaussmann
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's review
Aug 03, 2012

really liked it
Read from August 03 to 05, 2012

I'm going to be honest here, and reveal to the world exactly how shallow I am when it comes to books. We all say, 'Never judge a book by its cover', but really, let's face it, we all do! I, for one, had heard absolutely nothing about this book and picked it up only for its gorgeous cover image (Australian cover, that is) of a classic 1940s/50s pinup stretched out on a boardwalk in a vibrant yellow bathing suit, pouting with her perfectly-shaped, red lips. It's a stunner, check it out. Having picked it up, however, I did quickly learn from the blurb that this was exactly my kind of book, as it happens. Once again, superficiality wins!

'Tigers in Red Weather' reads something like 'To Kill a Mockingbird' redone with the style and modernity of 'The Great Gatsby'. Nick and her cousin Helena have always been the best of friends and are, at the novel's kick-off, currently sharing an apartment due to wartime constraints. The pair laze about drinking gin, listening to jazz records and dreaming about their current lovers. Both have grown up relatively privileged, but the real money is on Nick's side of the family. Helena is just the poor cousin by comparison, forced to tag along in her brilliant and rich cousin's wake. Nick is a compelling, passionate character, and my personal favourite. She's a real firebrand, determined to live her life differently to all the rest. To me, by comparison, Helena is just a bit milquetoast! Her insistence that she is merely the innocent in the events that culminate around her becomes grating after a while and I became quite furious with her! Anyway, I digress... The pair are soon to be married to their respective beaux, Nick to her longtime lover Hughes, who is away with the Navy, and Helena, for the second time after the death of her first husband, Fen, in the war, to a Hollywood-based insurance salesman. Neither are to be entirely happy marriages, as it turns out, but as the girls drift apart, they lose the connections that might have helped keep them afloat. They come together frequently, and often with mixed results, at their grandparents' holiday home, Tiger House, out on one of America's famed holiday isles.

Nick isn't really cut out for the housewife's life, instead dreaming of getting away to Europe with her suddenly distant husband. But Hughes is determined that they live a 'safe' life and Nick is so besotted that she soon finds herself relenting, only to find that all is not what it seems with her perfect husband and perfect life. Soon she is restless, and looking elsewhere for the excitement she can't find in her own marriage.

Helena, on the other hand, finds herself estranged from her husband in a very different way. Avery, it turns out, is obsessed with his first wife, a minor movie-star in Hollywood and her death years before. He has made it his life's work to put together a film documentary about her life and keeps a darkroom separate from the house where he works day and night. Helena soon finds herself despairing and begins to self-medicate with drink and prescription drugs.

Things aren't looking good for the pair. But the next generation has problems of its own. Enter Nick's daughter, Daisy (a nod to Fitzgerald perhaps?!) and Helena's strange son, Ed. The two become fast, if oddly-paired, friends during the holidays they spend together on the island, and it is their discovery of the murdered and mutilated body of a local maid nearby their home that soon changes things for both of them at home and for their parents too.

Tigers is a marvelous ride - with the kind of plot that puts 'To Kill a Mockingbird' to shame, wrapped up in the aesthetics of 'The Great Gatsby', it's got everything. The characters are vibrant and real and the settings stunning. Told from the perspectives of five different characters, it is well-rounded and surprising. Ed's conclusion will grip you and hold you until the very last page. This is the Kennedys on crack! A rollicking read!

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08/03/2012 page 69

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