Monday, July 29, 2013

Book Review: A Hundred Summers

A Hundred Summers
Beatriz Williams

Release Date: May 30, 2013

Book Description:
Memorial Day, 1938: New York socialite Lily Dane has just returned with her family to the idyllic oceanfront community of Seaview, Rhode Island, expecting another placid summer season among the familiar traditions and friendships that sustained her after heartbreak.

That is, until Greenwalds decide to take up residence in Seaview.

Nick and Budgie Greenwald are an unwelcome specter from Lily’s past: her former best friend and her former fiancé, now recently married—an event that set off a wildfire of gossip among the elite of Seaview, who have summered together for generations. Budgie’s arrival to restore her family’s old house puts her once more in the center of the community’s social scene, and she insinuates herself back into Lily's friendship with an overpowering talent for seduction...and an alluring acquaintance from their college days, Yankees pitcher Graham Pendleton. But the ties that bind Lily to Nick are too strong and intricate to ignore, and the two are drawn back into long-buried dreams, despite their uneasy secrets and many emotional obligations.

Under the scorching summer sun, the unexpected truth of Budgie and Nick’s marriage bubbles to the surface, and as a cataclysmic hurricane barrels unseen up the Atlantic and into New England, Lily and Nick must confront an emotional cyclone of their own, which will change their worlds forever.

Amazon US | Goodreads

I have to say that I’m very grateful for having won this novel in a giveaway, especially since I never win anything. And to add to my excitement I won it not once but twice (from two different sources). So, I shall thank both Literary New England radio and Chick Lit Central blog for my two copies of A Hundred Summers, one of which I happily shared with a friend.

As the New England hurricane of 1938 slowly marched ahead through the pages of A Hundred Summers, the novel has slowly swept me away within its eerily grandeur setting of an oceanfront community, its residents, and their complex and intricate histories.

I quite enjoyed reading Beatriz Williams’s debut novel – Overseas last year, a beautiful love story, with a touch of magical time-travel elements. And, I wasn’t quite sure whether this story will be to my taste, and I was more than pleasantly surprised by how much I loved it. The thirties, is really not the time period I would find incredibly fascinating, but Ms. Williams does such a good job at practically transporting her reader to those times that every time I opened the book I craved the smell of the salty ocean, the warmth of the sandy beach, the feeling of the wintry air as when Lily was first falling in love, and the rich enticing smell of tobacco. [Cause you would not believe the number of times these characters light up throughout the novel; but then they live in a very different time…]

“Mrs. Hubert says cigarettes are coffin nails,” said Kiki, drawing in the sand with her toe.”
“Mrs. Huber is an old biddy.” Aunt Julie took another drag. “My doctor recommends them. You can’t get healthier than that.”
A Hundred Summers (p. 13)

Lily Dane and Budgie Byrne have known each other since childhood as their respective families had summered at the same oceanfront community at Seaview, RI every year. But the two women cannot be more different, yet they are friends, or so it seems at first glance. Budgie has always been the life of the party, the femme fatale, if you will. While quiet, attentive Lily was quite content in Budgie’s shadow. But when the two women visit Budgie’s boyfriend – Graham Pendleton at his college’s football game, Lily meets Nick Greenwald and the two, fall in love quite suddenly.

Fast forward to 1938, Lily has once again returned to Seaview, joined by her never-present mother, her matter-of-fact and acerbic aunt Julie, and a very keen younger sister Kiki, whose parentage raises a few questions. But the placid summer pace is soon disturb, when Nick and Budgie Greenwald walk back into her life. As the summer unfolds, it is undeniable that Lily in Nick still harbor feelings for each other. And while Lily, being her sweet self, tries to salvage the pieces of her and Budgie’s friendship, she slowly begins to uncover the many secrets enveloping them all.

“As I turned down Neck Road, I lifted my eyes and caught a glimpse of the ocean, thick and gray, streaked with long rollers beneath a sickly dun sky. A gust of wind caught the car, making it stagger.
Oh, damn, I thought. Another storm. Just what I needed.”
A Hundred Summers (p.306)

Alternating between the events of the early 1930(s) and the summer of 1938, Ms. Williams weaves a beautiful story. And as pieces of the puzzle slowly begin to fall together so do Lily Dane and Nick Greenwald. Love, lies, betrayal and cover-up, A Hundred Summers has it all and more.

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