Beatriz Williams’ A Hundred Summers had been on my to-read list for awhile, lingering as a “beach read” that never got read, until I happened upon it while combing through the e-library ahead of my long cruise. It seemed like destiny! But what it ended up being was far less epic.
Heart-broken New York socialite Lily Dane plans to spend another summer in her family’s beach home in Seaview, Rhode Island, whiling-away her time on the dunes with her much-younger, precocious sister Kiki and the familiar circle of her friends and relations in the community. Then, she hears through the scandalized Seaview gossip-vine that Nick and Budgie Greenwald are moving in next door, ostensibly to restore Budgie’s family residence. Nick, her former fiancee, and Budgie, her wild childhood best friend, quickly draw Lily back into their lives despite her resistance, entangling her in their relationship and unearthing old secrets. As a hurricane bears down the coast, Lily’s life is thrown into turmoil thanks to a budding relationship with Budgie’s ex, Yankees player Graham Pendleton, and her lingering feelings for Nick.
This book was a lurid soap opera-style facsimile of an Edith Wharton or F. Scott Fitzgerald by way of Nicholas Sparks. Alternating in time between college in 1931 and the “present” day of 1938, Williams unravels Lily and Nick’s ill-fated romance, doomed because his family is Jewish and newer money – oh the tragedy! The main issue was that I wasn’t invested in this central relationship because we didn’t really get to see them build it. The brief snatches of time focused on what was wrong about them, not why they are so right together.
I did sympathize with Lily slightly, but she surrounds herself with the worst people and behaves so passively in every situation that she comes across as spineless and slow-witted. For example: the climactic reveal (the best part), in which we learn that (unlike what I and every other character had expected) Kiki is not Lily and Nick’s lovechild, but actually her mother’s from an affair she had with Nick’s father, which is why Lily’s father had a heart attack because he caught them in flagrante delicto AND Lily’s mother knew all this and let everyone assume the baby was Lily’s anyway. Worst mother ever (or at least in fiction I’ve read this year). But Lily didn’t even realize all of these things were going on around her, despite the obvious signs.
There was also a love-square, faked pregnancies, blackmail, and almost-incest, yet it seems like nothing of actual interest happens in the book until the freak hurricane ending, which magically solves all the problems by taking out the bad guys and letting Lily and Nick have a picture-perfect fairy-tale ending. Ugh.