A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams (Putnam Adult; 368 pages; $26.95).
If you prefer your summer reads served up with a side of a nostalgic New England coastal setting, old money, and old rivalries, then A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams should satisfy your literary cravings. Williams’ second novel (her first was Overseas) is the perfect propulsive beach read. Plot-driven, A Hundred Summers culminates in an explosive confrontation just as a powerful hurricane barrels down on an idyllic seafront community. You will not be able to tear yourself away from these pages.
Williams skillfully alternates between present and past story arcs, creating and building suspense. In 1938, the wealthy Lily Dane and her family summer at Seaview, Rhode Island, just as they have every summer for generations. This season will not be as happy and restful as the others have been, though, as Budgie and Nick Greenwald have decided to make the island their summer home. In tow is New York Yankees pitcher and ladies’ man Graham Pendleton.
Secrets and lies are about as plentiful in A Hundred Summers as salt water, sand, and cocktails. In Williams’ 1931 story arc, she paints quite a different picture of these characters. Lily and Budgie were the very best of friends, a united front. Lily and Nick were in love and planned on getting married, while Budgie and Graham were hot and heavy.
In a flash, everything changes for Williams’ characters and we must unravel truths from lies as we desperately search for what really happened. Wholly engaging and entertaining, A Hundred Summers recalls the nostalgic aspects of Liza Klaussmann’s Tigers in Red Weather , where “summer” is a verb and green is the color of both money and of envy.
Both narratives lead to a stunning climax, compelling the reader forward through the murky and deep depths of this richly-imagined novel. Williams’ love for the coast is on full display in A Hundred Summers as she navigates both the culture of moneyed islanders
and the history behind her tale.
The hurricane that comes roaring ashore and destroys the fictional community of Seaview is based on the Great New England Hurricane of 1938. Williams explains the storm “thundered ashore without warning in the afternoon of September 21 , killing over seven hundred people and felling over two billion trees.” Incredibly, the forecast for the 21st called for sunshine and only a bit of wind in the afternoon. The hurricane has always fascinated Williams, who tells me, “Nobody even knew a hurricane was on its way…What they got was a minimum Category 3 surge forcing a 15-20 foot surge that came in like a tsunami.”
Entertaining, intriguing, and well written, A Hundred Summers is this summer’s perfect beach or poolside accessory. You will fall in love with these characters and never forget them.
You will wish you had an Aunt Julie, a flamboyant minor character and aunt to Lily who steals just about every scene she’s in.