Thursday, May 30, 2013

Review: A Hundred Summers

Summary: 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 fiancĂ©, 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. -- Putnam

A few months ago, I reviewed OVERSEAS by Beatriz Williams, and much to my surprise, I found that I enjoyed the novel. The premise didn't exactly appeal to me, but I appreciated Ms. Williams' writing style and storytelling abilities. However, when I read the description for her latest novel A HUNDRED SUMMERS, I had a feeling that this book would be right up my alley. And I was so right!

A HUNDRED SUMMERS tells the story of Lily Dane when she returns with her family to Seaview, Rhode Island for a peaceful summer vacation. However, her plans are turned upside-down when Nick and Budgie Greenwald, friends from her past, also show up in Seaview. Budgie was Lily's one-time best friend and Nick was her former fiance, and Lily has a difficult time facing both of them given their recent marriage and her attraction to Nick. Unfortunately, Seaview is a small town and it's hard not to run into each other on a regular basis.

As the summer progresses, Lily and Nick discover that they can't control their passions and Budgie becomes even more desperate to hold onto her husband. As a major hurricane approaches Seaview (both figuratively and literally), things become even more desperate for this trio.

You might have noticed that I left my description of the book pretty vague. And that's because I think it's best just to experience without knowing too much -- like I did. The story has many flashbacks to the past, and I admit to being a little confused about what had happened between 1931 and the 1938 summer at Seaview. There were obviously some secrets and many dramatic twists during those seven years, and I think Ms. Williams did a great job of gradually revealing the characters' pasts.

One this I loved about this book was the setting. I am a sucker for books that take place at the beach, and Seaview (a fictitious town, by the way) was so glamorous. I loved the descriptions of the clothes, hair and makeup; and I also appreciated how women were portrayed in this time period. Additionally, I was impressed with how the author incorporated the devastating 1938 hurricane into the story. It was apparent to me that she did a great deal of research on both the time period, the setting, and the hurricane.

I'm usually not a big fan of romance and drama, so I'm not exactly sure why I enjoyed A HUNDRED SUMMERS so much. Maybe I need the occasional fix now that I no longer watch afternoon soaps. Trust me when I tell you that this book was filled with drama and much of it was pretty scandalous and juicy. While I liked Lily and Nick (for the most part), I couldn't stand Budgie and her actions. I think I enjoyed her over-the-top behavior and had fun rooting against a bad guy (or in this case, a bad girl!) Furthermore, I liked the love triangle (or square?) and I enjoyed trying to figure out everyone's secrets.

If I had one small issue with the book, it's probably the ending. It's not that I didn't like it. Rather, I thought it kind of wrapped everything up a little too nicely. Having said that, I wasn't too disappointed since things did work out how I wanted!

I do think A HUNDRED SUMMERS would be a great book for your book club to discuss this summer, especially is you want a book with a beach setting. The characters and their interactions are fascinating and there is certainly the potential to delve into their lives. There are also some interesting themes to explore including friendship, betrayal, prejudice, secrets, marriage, adultery, forgiveness, love, and redemption.

A HUNDRED SUMMERS is a juicy read and a wonderful book to throw in your beach bag this summer.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.


Laura Fabiani said...

I have this one on audio and looking forward to listening to it by the pool!

bermudaonion said...

This does sound full of drama but that would keep me turning the pages. I will probably like the neat ending.