Monday, November 4, 2013

Tigers in Red Weather - Liza Klaussmann

Tigers in Red WeatherSo, this book isn't what I thought it would be.  The book jacket describes it as F. Scott Fitzgerald-like, and while I didn't particularly like The Great Gatsby as a book, it does have a lovely sense of atmosphere for the time period it's written in.  Oh, and there's that whole thing that popped up in past year or two about how "There ain't no party like a Gatsby party 'cause a Gatsby party don't stop until at least two people are dead and everyone is disillusioned with the Jazz Age as a whole."  I like that.  And to a degree, this did have that feel...but it still wasn't quite what I was looking for.

The book is about a pair of cousins, Nick and Helena, and their lives in the wake of World War II and the following decades.  Nick is married to a Navy man returning from the war; Helena's husband died early on in the war, and she is about to be remarried to a man from Hollywood.  Both cousins are leaving their wartime residence in Cambridge to meet up with their significant others and carry on with their lives.  Nick, however, isn't very happy in her new home in Florida and feels like her husband has changed drastically since he went to war--he isn't the man she married anymore.  As for Helena, her new husband isn't quite what he seemed when she married him, and her life in Hollywood quickly begins falling to pieces.

The story also introduces Nick's daughter Daisy and Helena's son Ed.  The book is broken up into five parts, each focusing on a different character.  The first four parts focus on Nick, Daisy, Helena, and Hughes, in that order, and are written in third person.  The last part is from Ed's perspective and is written in first person.  The sudden switch from third to first person was a bit jarring, and didn't really mesh well with me, though I could see the logical reasons why Klaussmann chose to use that style for the final part.  There isn't much retreading of plot in the parts--a few events are mentioned in more than one perspective, but for the most part we get new information in each part.  This is very much a character-driven novel, not a plot-driven one, except...

...except that Klaussmann tried to work a murder mystery in, too.  I don't know why.  While it provided a bit of intrigue for Daisy's part of the novel, it doesn't go much beyond that except in gossip, but it's still supposed to play a pivotal role in the overall plot as pertaining to the family.  It's just not explored enough to provide that forward motion, and when it finally is explored more, it's the end of the book and there isn't much more to be done with it.  This definitely could have been integrated more, had a larger impact on the lives of the characters, or else wise probably shouldn't have been included.

It's true that not much happens for a lot of this book.  It isn't very action-packed.  However, I didn't mind that at all.  The book's main goal seems to be to explore the characters and how they came to be who they are, and I think Klaussman does a good job with that for everyone except Ed, because with Ed it's just...uhm...well, let me put it this way: I'm not sure Klaussmann really knew how to get inside his head, and that's a good thing.

There are some loose ends that are never tied up, such as what happened to Helena's husband Avery, and I would have liked to see a bit beyond where the book ended--some sort of reveal to Daisy and Helena about what Ed did.  That didn't happen, and it was a bit disappointing, but not hugely detrimental to the overall quality of the book.

So, I liked it overall, for what it was: a good character sketch novel with a great atmosphere for the setting.  It wasn't what I was expecting--I was expecting a lot more drama and mystery--but I liked it all the same.

3 out of five stars.

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