‘The yellow book, with the yellow woman on it’ – novel set in Martha’s Vineyard
- Book: Tigers in Red Weather
- Location: Martha's Vineyard
- Author: Liza Klaussmann
Summer of 2013, Tigers in Red Weather by Liza Klaussmann is popping up everywhere – in the UK Mumsnet promote it, the Richard and Judy Bookclub features it in their Summer reads, and it is on the promotional tables of innumerable bookshops. So we were curious to see what the hype is about, especially as it is set in beautiful Martha’s Vineyard.
This novel centres around Tiger House, the name originally given by one of the family’s ancestors, in memory of President Roosevelt who back in the day was a big game hunter, and who was particularly fond of hunting tigers.
The story shuttles back and forth between eras – from 1944 to 1969 – and we see the plot unfolding through the eyes of the main players. Central are Daisy and Ed, who are the young cousins, and their respective Mothers Nick and Helena, and their respective husbands Hughes and Avery. It is an incredibly readable book, with a captivating style – there are vignettes of domestic life from the era, and ‘innocuous’ incidents, redolent of malice that punctuate the plot. The storyline increasingly feels quite claustrophobic, hot red of Summer as in “red weather” of the title – stultifying, enervating, sapping, vision-blurring…. just like when thunder clouds hang heavy and something momentous is about to happen. The reader is watching and waiting, absorbing the pungent smells of perspiring island life. We are spectating, just like Ed, who himself is an observer, a voyeur, even, of events. Is he the tiger or the hunted, quietly and unobtrusively observing the comings and goings?
he central event in this book is the murder of an Hispanic maid, which lurks as a leitmotiv pulling the story together.
Each section is clearly titled and dated to keep the sequence flowing – we know which character is speaking and in which era it is set, but on occasion it can be a little hard to keep up.
Themes and events speckle the course of the book, but fade away without significance. The colour yellow pops up regularly at the beginning and there is anticipation that this colour might be relevant to the plot (afterall, it is the dominant colour of the the wonderful cover – but read on below!!!), however the references just evaporated. Early on, there are regular references to the perfume Lily of the Valley, but they, too, serve no function. There are copious references to tigers throughout the book, whether in the title, whether in material, dresses or cushions, and the final mention comes at the end, where we learn the title of the book has come from a line from a poem by American modernist poet, Wallace Stevens. Red herrings they aren’t. The references just float in time and space, distractions as we watch and wait…
As it is one of the most beautiful covers we have seen, click on http://tripfiction.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/Novel-set-in-Marthas-Vineyard.html and read the backstory from the publishers about how it came into being.