My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Although I struggled with T&D on the re-read (or re-listen on audiobook?), I really liked Tigerland. I had to get over a few niggles (channeling Jenre with that word) but I actually liked it more than T&D this time around. This definitely was helped by the change in narrator. This time around the narrator was Aussie and helped add that quintessential flavor to the story. Plus he got Simon’s melodramatic voice so spot on. There were even tiny quavers and hiccups. I can’t really praise this narrator enough, he did a fantastic job with Tigerland. That said, I also felt as if I could envision Simon and Declan’s relationship much better. I saw more of their banter and how they reacted to each other’s strengths and weaknesses. I could finally appreciate what Declan saw in Simon that was worth putting up with his very difficult and overwrought personality.
It’s now been three years since Declan’s was outed in the press and although he played in the AFL for a few more years, his injury reappeared and he retired to work as a commentator. Simon moved on from the Triple F to produce several television shows for a community tv station. They’ve settled happily into Declan’s plush apartment near the Docklands with friends Fran, Rodger, Abe, and Lisa. Lisa and Abe have broken up for reasons unknown but are working on their relationship while Fran and Rodger are struggling with infertility. Declan and Simon seem the only couple to have it easy when Declan’s old boyfriend and ex-AFL player Greg Heyward decides to come out and tell salacious details about his past relationship with Declan.
For starters I really enjoyed this book because it feels a bit like a slice of life book. It shows the various relationships between the friends and couples for quite a while before getting to the drama of Heyward and the renewed media circus. I finally could get a solid grasp on Simon and Declan’s relationship and how they worked really well together. Their different strengths actually complimented each other but they also have communication issues. They’re not a perfect couple and even though they actively work on talking and listening to each other, they’re prone to keeping secrets as a way to not hurt or stress each other out. I liked that this was a realistic depiction of a couple that loves each other but knowingly makes mistakes like people do.
My only issue came with the drama with Heyward. Yes he’s Declan’s ex-boyfriend and it can’t be fun to have that splashed about so publically but Simon started to seriously hyperventilate and make him out to be an evil mastermind way too early. I kept wondering why Simon was having a full on homicidal meltdown over an ex relationship that took place 6 years ago. The melodrama was so completely over the top I actually shouted at the audiobook. I don’t think Simon heard but the point was there. He freaked out when there was no real reason to and then when Heyward was actually saying negative things and lying about Simon, Simon seemed to have to acceptance of it. Kind of a backwards reaction in my opinion and it made the book initially feel overwrought. Additionally sometimes the language, especially during Simon’s internal rantings/monologues, would try too hard.
That said I found the story incredibly engaging and a real joy to listen to. The inclusion of drama from the supporting cast in a realistic way made the story more relatable and entertaining. I could appreciate the characters as they matured and actually progressed, which made me appreciate and like them all the more. Kennedy’s pop culture references and humor is on full display and I lost track of the times I laughed out loud. I was actually running once and had to stop because Simon said something so incredibly funny. This is an easy re-read I think, even if I know I’ll yell at Simon to chill out a time or two. But at least there’s a good ending for all involved and I think the sequel easily lives up to the first book.