Review Blog

May 07 2014

Tigers on the Beach by Doug Macleod

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Penguin, 2014. ISBN 9780143568520.
Previously, I read and reviewed Doug Macleod's CBCA Book of the Year short-listed The Shiny Guys. It was a gritty and macabre meditation on mental health, laced with experimental technique and dark humour. Macleod's most recent venture, Tigers on the Beach, while still tackling difficult subject matter (death) is much more whimsical and upbeat. Despite this new approach, the author's trademark biting wit and meticulous attention to detail are retained.
Tigers introduces us to Adam, an inquisitive and highly likeable teenage boy. The sudden passing of his cheeky grandfather sets into motion a series of events, including his extended family and their respective issues, and his own adolescent trials, particularly first love.
Two aspects of this novel stand out in particular. Firstly, the balance between elements is astonishingly sensitive and effective. Doug Macleod presents storytelling with humour and pathos, the absurd and the banal, contemporary and nostalgia, autobiography and originality. He does so in an uncannily natural and poignant way.
The second aspect of this novel which deserves praise is the author's talent for creating clever and engaging dialogue which flows beautifully. Each twist and turn-of-phrase highlights the wonderfully developed cast of characters and their dynamic interactions in a manner which is completely enthralling.
Without this, the novel would not be as strong, as the sharp dialogue and pace injects new life into the 'dysfunctional family' cliche.
The novel concludes with touching resolve and closure. I enjoyed Tigers on the Beach more than almost any book I have reviewed this year - it is a charming and anecdotal work, with a fine balance of emotional naivete and strength which will appeal to many readers.
Henry Vaughan (Student)

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