Friday, February 01, 2013

Tigers in Red Weather by Liza Klaussmann

This book made me want to drink a martini and eat chateaubriand*, whatever that is. Steeped so heavily in the atmosphere of the 1950’s, it might as well be a time travel guide to that era of cocktails, heavy meals, repressed sexuality, and limited options for women. I picked this up on the new fiction shelf at the library; for some reason the cover features an illustration of vaguely Asian looking women with parasols, so I thought it might be about Japan. Well, no, but it is an interesting novel about a WASPy New England family in the postwar years.

In this novel several members of an affluent family take turns narrating the action, which takes place from the mid-1940’s through the mid-1960’s. Some of the narrators are sympathetic, some are unreliable, and some are off-putting. A central theme is honesty; there isn’t much of it in this family or in this story, but there certainly is atmosphere to spare. Most of the action takes place on Martha’s Vineyard in the 1950’s where tennis, gin and tonic at the club, and adultery are the main attractions. There’s a murder, too, but even that doesn’t really derail the locals from their pursuit of pleasure.

Liza Klaussmann writes spare, elegant prose that evokes the time and place perfectly. Her descriptions of the food, the houses, and the clothes add some fun but she never lets them overtake the plot or stand in for emotions.

*a fancy beef dish; is this no longer in fashion?

(Book 5, 2013)


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