Before I start in on this book review, I need to point out I am fully aware that I am absolutely not the demographic this book is aiming itself at. But with that caveat in mind, my book reading history is littered with books well out of my comfort zone that I have absolutely loved. I mean, I doubt Anne Tyler had 38 year old homosexuals in mind when she was writing The Accidental Tourist. So the hype surrounding this made me intrigued enough to read it. Mistake.
Tigers tells the story of Nick and her cousin Helena. They grew up together on the family estate in Martha’s Vineyard where they shared, according to the synopsis, “sultry summer heat and midnight gin parties”. At the end of the Second World War, they both begin new lives as Nick can now begin her life with her husband Hughes, as he returns from the war. Helena is Hollywood bound, marrying Avery and promised a glitzy glamorous life. Naturally, things don’t turn out well. Hughes is a changed man, Avery was hiding a whole bunch of madness under his chapeau. When Nick and Helena return to Tiger House with their two children in tow, they try to recapture the possibilities that were laying before them a decade before. But the discovery of a dead body sends everything even further off the rails.
If you believe the hype around this debut, you’d believe it’s “Brilliantly told from five points of view, with a magical elegance and suspenseful dark longing”. Do me a favour. Choosing three pivotal years between 1945 and 1969, Klaussman gives one section to Nick and one to Helena. Hughes gets his own section too. The last two sections belong to Daisy, Nick and Hughes’s daughter and Ed, Helena and Avery’s son. The latter, for reasons unknown, is the only one of the five to be narrated in the first person.
To be frank, the book is laughable. Klaussman bites off way more than she can chew. The end result is multiple plot strands are poorly developed and incoherent. Some are unfinished, others are so shoddily concluded they made my teeth itch. It takes a writer of considerable talent to pull off a story this layered and with five different narrative voices, and you, Ms Klaussmann, are not that writer. The large amount of telling, not showing, drove me to distraction. At one point, Daisy suspects that a local boy would probably smell like the inside of her riding hat. Which is fine, except she then describes exactly what the inside of her riding hat actually smells like. And if that weren’t bad enough, Klaussmann is guilty of a pet hate of mine, which is to use the word “gotten”. She uses it so very often (three times on one page was the low point) that I found myself inwardly shrieking alternatives like “obtained” and “received” like a demented Speak N Spell.
The hype would have you believe that Klaussmann has delivered the next Great Gatsby. I don’t think so. For my money, she’s delivered a novel rammed full of stereotypes all haw-hawing at each other, while a not particularly taxing episode of Murder, She Wrote unfolds in the background. Avoid.