Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Review: The Summer Wives

Summary: New York Times bestselling author Beatriz Williams brings us the blockbuster novel of the season—an electrifying postwar fable of love, class, power, and redemption set among the inhabitants of an island off the New England coast . . .

In the summer of 1951, Miranda Schuyler arrives on elite, secretive Winthrop Island as a schoolgirl from the margins of high society, still reeling from the loss of her father in the Second World War. When her beautiful mother marries Hugh Fisher, whose summer house on Winthrop overlooks the famous lighthouse, Miranda’s catapulted into a heady new world of pedigrees and cocktails, status and swimming pools. Isobel Fisher, Miranda’s new stepsister—all long legs and world-weary bravado, engaged to a wealthy Island scion—is eager to draw Miranda into the arcane customs of Winthrop society.

But beneath the island’s patrician surface, there are really two clans: the summer families with their steadfast ways and quiet obsessions, and the working class of Portuguese fishermen and domestic workers who earn their living on the water and in the laundries of the summer houses. Uneasy among Isobel’s privileged friends, Miranda finds herself drawn to Joseph Vargas, whose father keeps the lighthouse with his mysterious wife. In summer, Joseph helps his father in the lobster boats, but in the autumn he returns to Brown University, where he’s determined to make something of himself. Since childhood, Joseph’s enjoyed an intense, complex friendship with Isobel Fisher, and as the summer winds to its end, Miranda’s caught in a catastrophe that will shatter Winthrop’s hard-won tranquility and banish Miranda from the island for nearly two decades.

Now, in the landmark summer of 1969, Miranda returns at last, as a renowned Shakespearean actress hiding a terrible heartbreak. On its surface, the Island remains the same—determined to keep the outside world from its shores, fiercely loyal to those who belong. But the formerly powerful Fisher family is a shadow of itself, and Joseph Vargas has recently escaped the prison where he was incarcerated for the murder of Miranda’s stepfather eighteen years earlier. What’s more, Miranda herself is no longer a naïve teenager, and she begins a fierce, inexorable quest for justice for the man she once loved . . . even if it means uncovering every last one of the secrets that bind together the families of Winthrop Island. -- William Morrow

I am a huge fan of author Beatriz Williams! I have read almost all of her novels (if not all of them!) and I was so excited to read her new one THE SUMMER WIVES. At its heart, THE SUMMER WIVES is a mystery but it's also a story about one woman's return to her childhood home and her attempt to have some closure from her painful past.

Like most of Ms. William's books, THE SUMMER WIVES moves between time periods. The novel begins with Miranda Schuyler moving to Winthrop Island in 1951 when her mother married Hugh Fisher, one of the wealthiest men on the island. Miranda's is thrown into a new world and her step-sister Isobel is eager to show her the ropes. Miranda isn't exactly comfortable with her new life, and she finds herself attracted to Joseph Vargas, son of the lighthouse keeper... and very, very close "friend" to Isobel.

When Miranda's stepfather is murdered and Joseph is convicted of the crime, Miranda feels the need to escape from the island. She becomes a successful Shakespearean actress, but she has never really been able to move on from her past. When she returns to the island in the summer of 1969 (around the same time that Joseph escapes from prison), she causes quite a stir. Miranda decides that she needs to get to the bottom of her stepfather's murder and prove that Joseph was wrongfully convicted of the crime.

I loved THE SUMMER WIVES! As a mystery fan, I loved the question of who killed Hugh Fisher; however, I also really appreciated Ms. William's characters and writing style. I always enjoy how she weaves stores between two time periods (in this case 1951 and 1969), but this novel also had additional characters' back stories that occurred prior to the 1950s. I think she does a remarkable job of bringing each and every time period to life with her descriptive writing.

In addition, I really liked the characters of Miranda and Joseph. Both were rather complicated and I found them to be intriguing, and I definitely enjoyed the relationship between the two of them. Through Miranda was no longer an innocent teenager, she still was trying to reconcile her past. As a result, this book was not only a mystery (and a bit of a love story) but also a woman's attempt to discover herself.

As far as mysteries go, this novel had a good one. I won't say I was entirely surprise by a few of the secrets that were revealed, but they were so juicy that I enjoyed them nonetheless. I especially appreciated how the story unfolded and the reader was given the opportunity to figure things out along with Miranda.

All in all, I thought THE SUMMER WIVES was one of Ms. Williams' best... and if you've read her novels then you know that's a mighty fine compliment. Highly recommended for fans of mysteries and fans of women's fiction.

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


bermudaonion said...

I'm excited to see this is good because my book club is reading it next month.

Carole said...

Hi Julie, this looks like a goodie. I hope you'll have time to bring this over to Books You Loved: September so everyone can see it. Cheers from Carole's Chatter