Catégories
Reading Aloud 2

Thoughts on a book from the school library

Judy Blume, Tiger Eyes

Book cover

Front : romanticized picture of a girl with commonly accepted features and make-up, a mask in fact, pastel colours, dreamlike, melancholy.
Back : first half, sentimental quotation : a teenage girl ‘lifting her face to the sun’, idealized relationship with her father; second half, platitudes : ‘beloved’, ‘wasteful horror’, ‘a landscape as desolate as her own life’, ‘mysterious young man called Wolf’ who makes the reader hope for a happy end after all.

 

Contents

Dedication : ‘For George. Contigo la vida es una buena aventura.’ (With you life is a good adventure.) This projects optimism and indicates the spirit of the book: our problems can be solved.
Caring, if a little possessive relatives receive a family bereaved of husband and father. The book is more or less an account of the year spent in new surroundings.
There are different people with different problems.

Davey, the main character, a fifteen year old girl, can’t talk to her mother about the sinister event: her father ‘dying from multiple gunshot wounds’. Yet, talking about it would, in accordance with certain laws of psychology, help her master its impact. She is therefore in a plight. In the end, a casual psychologist recommended by Davey’s mother solves the problem and Davey is relieved.
Davey’s mother is hysterical, there is a lively description of this, without self-control whatsoever and needs psychiatric treatment which, as cannot be expected otherwise, is successful eventually. She even finds a man to comfort her, but turns him down after having regained strength. She can now stand on her own feet again, face life and make plans for the future.
Jane, a friend of Davey’s, has a drinking problem, but the alcohol abuse clinic will solve that.

There is a sex problem in general, affecting most people.
Davey is not supposed to go on the beach with her boyfriend, because that is where she herself was inadvertently conceived. She has this information from her parents, of course. She is a good daughter and keeps her promise, persuading her boyfriend to ‘make out’ with her standing up against a tree in the garden, detailed description. When they come to a point where she is about to lose her will-power, there are a few timely shots nearby: a sinister event is taking place at the right moment.

The account of what actually happened at this moment stretches, by virtue of interruptions at crucial stages, throughout the whole book, so as to keep the reader in suspense. The culminating point is reached at the psychiatrist’s with a dramatic description of a battlefield drenched in blood. The reader now understands why Davey can’t bear the sight of blood and sleeps with a huge breadknife under her pillow. This terrible tool is eventually discarded under the impact of the ‘mysterious young man’, Wolf. She leaves it with him in a secret cave.

Wolf is an outstanding young man with whom Davey’s boyfriend can’t compare : a few years older, tall, tanned, handsome, ‘narrow hips, strong arms and shoulders’, kind, sad, helpful. She buries her head on his chest, no more. His father turns out to be a terminal cancer case in the local hospital where Davey has a part-time job. He dies cheerfully and peacefully, an example to everybody, not before having explained to Davey what a brilliant scholar his son is, a student at a foremost university. Sadly, Davey doesn’t have his address, but is convinced they will meet again, especially since receiving a touching present from him which came by post: a semi-precious stone called ‘tiger eye’, at their first meeting she had asked him to call her ‘Tiger’.

Davey, too, has regained her self-confidence at the end and after a long chat with her mother in a fashionable restaurant is more than ready to go back home. The spirit is good. Life is a good adventure after all, she explains to her aunt whose mind boggles at this wisdom, but who is obliged to let them go. All is well that ends well!

The setting of the novel is American middle class society, which accounts for a few Americanisms like ‘hyperventilating is different than fainting’, ‘I turn away and look out the window’, etc.
The pleasures and pains this society has to cope with, like sex and alcoholism, are presented in a natural, matter-of-fact way. It is a little surprizing that sex-related problems like certain diseases are not mentioned at all. Maybe they have been overcome. The idea is no doubt that children should be encouraged to handle sex by themselves from the earliest possible age. Thus sex becomes a perfectly natural matter of routine, like Jane’s parents making love ‘once a week on Saturday nights’. There is a reference to sex on almost every other page. This is what children want to read, the sales figures are eloquent proof. My twelve-year-old daughter certainly reads it with glowing cheeks.

There are many books like that, very popular and why not. As long as children behave themselves, like Davey, and don’t go on the beach, there can be no harm. If there is, then it’s their own fault for being naughty, they’ve certainly been warned. Again I feel that for completeness’ sake mention should have been made of V.D. A revized edition should take Aids into account. Perhaps the Author felt it would be pointless exaggerating problems by drawing a darker picture than necessary. She feels we should have an optimistic outlook on life and then much to our surprize problems will solve themselves, in her book, anyway.

Tiger Eyes makes good reading: simple style, casual language, explicitness, clarity, no obscurity of any kind, within easy reach of any I.Q., everything laid open, explained, sorted out, in a word, real life.
The Author is obviously aware of the presence of certain undesirable phenomena, like the privileged upper class scientists who make ‘the Bomb’, Davey finds this terrible. It means she realizes there is another side to it. Fortunately she doesn’t have anything to do with that.
On the whole an informative book meeting its young readers’ demands.