Reviews by ARMINTA WALLACEand ANNA CAREY
Tigers in Red Weather
By Liza Klaussmann
There are several reasons why you might pick up this debut novel. First, Liza Klaussmann is the great-great-great- granddaughter of Herman Melville. Second, the book was the subject of a five-way bidding war and ended up costing Picador the literary equivalent of an arm and a leg: the “six-figure sum”.
But the main reason is that it’s terrific. It starts after the second World War and sweeps to the end of the 1960s; it has one of those irresistible cocktails-and-jazz-piano settings that invariably conceal festering family secrets and divided loyalties; it’s glamorous, clever, immaculately written. In a summer when every second book seems to alternate between chunks of present and chunks of past – enough already, book people – Klaussmann assembles a much riskier edifice: the story told from five points of view.
Tigers in Red Weather begins on a golden afternoon in September 1945 with Nick, whose young husband, Hughes, is on his way home from the war in Europe. Impulsive and rebellious, Nick is a consummately seductive narrator. It is not until her daughter, Daisy, takes up the story that, reading, you go: “Oh! No. Really?”
The action mostly takes place in Tiger House, an impossibly idyllic summer residence that, of course, turns out to be just that: impossible. As each new narrator moves into position – and, believe me, they just get better and better – the story of this glittering family takes another turn, revolving slowly but with devastating sureness towards a breathtaking finale. Even to name the narrators would be to give the game away, so I won’t. But if you’re looking for a great summer read, look no further.
Mateship with Birds
By Carrie Tiffany
Rural Australia in the 1950s is the setting for the follow-up to Carrie Tiffany’s highly praised debut novel, Everyman’s Rules for Scientific Living. Mateship with Birds tells the story of Harry, a dairy farmer who trains his binoculars on the family of kookaburras that roost next to his dairy and makes notes on their behaviour in the unused columns of a milk ledger, which has the effect of turning his musings into poetry. He is the kind of farmer who philosophises about cows and takes a keen interest in the state of his grass. Harry is also keeping a weather eye on another neighbouring family, that of Betty and her two children, Michael and little Hazel. Though Harry and Betty are attracted to each other, the pedestrian nature of their daily lives keeps them apart, unlike the birds, who live through a daily round of dramas of the earthiest kind imaginable.
Michael, meanwhile, has discovered girls, and, in the absence of a father figure in the boy’s life, Harry writes a series of secret, detailed, highly explicit letters intended to fill him in on matters sexual.