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A Hundred Summers Paperback – April 1, 2014
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Dashing football hero Nick Greenwald is catapulted into the rarified milieu of Park Avenue penthouses and Ivy League campuses in the uncertain days of the Great Depression when he falls in love with Lily Dane. The meeker (though more polished), moral, and beautiful best friend of Zeldaesque flapper Budgie Byrne, Lily is immediately smitten with Nick’s determination and strength, an attraction the manipulative Budgie doesn’t encourage, though she doesn’t necessarily discourage it, either. After all, Nick is Jewish, and Budgie is confident that Lily’s socially conservative family will never condone the match. They don’t, and Budgie profits from the rift, marrying Nick on the rebound, while Lily nurses her broken heart. Seven years later, the Greenwalds turn up at Seaview, Rhode Island, the perennial summer enclave for the Danes, Byrnes, and other WASP stalwarts, and their renewed presence in Lily’s life unleashes a storm of unexpected consequences. Williams’ sweeping saga of betrayal, sacrifice, and redemption trenchantly examines the often duplicitous nature of female friendships and family expectations. --Carol Haggas --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
“Sparkles like the New England summer sun.”—Karen White
“It is what every beach book should aspire to be—smart and engrossing.”—Elin Hilderbrand
“[A] great summer read.”—People
“Will keep the reader so engrossed, multiple applications of sunscreen will be required.”—USA Today
“A wonderfully evocative atmosphere of hot and hazy days, shimmering parties, and lazy afternoons on the beach. Add in a little romance, a lost love, and a family mystery, and you’ve got the perfect way to spend an afternoon in the hot sand.”—Examiner.com
“A candidate for this year’s big beach read.”—Kirkus Reviews
“[A] fast-paced love story.”—O, The Oprah Magazine
“Summer of 1938: A scandalous love triangle and a famous hurricane converge in a New England beach community. Add in a betrayal between friends, a marriage for money, and a Yankee pitcher, and it’s a perfect storm.”—Good Housekeeping
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Top Customer Reviews
From that point, the narrative alternates between the fall and winter of 31, on Smith campus and in Manhattan, and the summer of 1938 in Seaview, where Lily and Budgie had first met as children, and where Lily has spent every summer of her life.
It would spoil the novel to say much more about the characters or the story, which gradually unfolds with some surprises. I felt that the author did a good job portraying a time and lifestyle that is now gone, and capturing the mood, style, mores, and society of that time. The author really did her research, which is readily apparent to someone who is familiar with a specific historical event that occurs. Not to be mysterious, but it would be a spoiler - but when you read it, please be aware it is based on true facts, no matter how farfetched it seems.
I also particularly enjoy novels set in places I'm familiar with - and since I live on the RI coast, this rings true, even though the colony is fictional. This is more historical fiction than an actual beach read, and I thoroughly enjoyed it: the story, the characters, and the setting.
Things have always seemed a bit easier for Budgie whose boyfriend, Harrison, is eventually cast aside for a different boyfriend, a pattern that repeats itself often in Budgie's life.
Now 1938, Lily is summering at Seaview, the beach house her family has vacationed at for generations. Budgie will be arriving shortly at her family's beach house, and Lily is nervous for her arrival since the two haven't spoken in years. In addition, Budgie is now Budgie Greenwald, having married Nick, who had once been the love of Lily's life.
The chapters alternate setting between 1931 and 1938 and I raced through each chapter in order to discover what occurred between Lily and Nick that ended what appeared to be a perfect love affair. As I read secrets were revealed - enjoyable especially since I didn't foresee any of them in advance. I fell in love with Nick, a gentleman from the book's beginning and wanted both he and Lily to find happiness.
The cover of this book perfectly captures this time period, which in addition to the 1930s setting, also is marked by the Hurricane of 1938 that swept away entire beach communities like Seaview where Lily and Budgie had summer homes.
A Hundred Summers left me with a book hangover; every title I have picked up since hasn't held much appeal.
I read Williams' first novel, "Overseas" when it was released, and while it had merit, and was riveting enough to keep me turning the page, it also had many flaws. The author apparently learned from her mistakes because "A Hundred Summers" grabbed me from the opening paragraphs and did not let go.
I loved the protagonist Lily. It is rare that a character is so nuanced; she is both innocent and jaded, a mixture of traits that could easily be eye-rollingly impossible to believe, but Lily manages to pull it off. She has a big heart and loves deeply, but yet also possesses a few base characteristics (jealousy, for one) that make her a stunningly real character. The narrative is from her own first person view and yet I didn't feel like I was being excluded from the other characters thoughts and actions. The ability to do this is the mark of a great writer, in my opinion.
Nick, the male protagonist, is at times too perfect (a problem, if I remember correctly, with the male protag in "Overseas" as well), but he is sufficiently tempered with "bad" traits as well. These bad traits are a bit tired, yes, but in this day and age of overly rakish heroes, it's nice to see one who is perfectly normal (for the most part.)
The whole cast of characters were interesting and well drawn. Even Budgie, the girl everyone loves to hate, evokes a host of conflicting emotions. I enjoyed the scandalous Aunt Julie as well. I did think it was odd how Lily's mother (who turns out to play a significant role in the events that tear Lily and Nick a part) barely made an appearance. She only appears three times in the action of the novel; she is only referred to in all other instances. I don't know if this was intentional or not; if it was, and done as a means to further enhance the mystery, then well done.
What got me was the stunning secret revealed towards the end of the novel. The author had me convinced (as was all of New York society) that a particular situation detailed in the book had gone down one way, and so I was shocked when the truth was revealed. Slow clap for Ms. Williams for I am rarely stunned by a big secret in a novel.
And see, here I said I was not going to wax poetic and yet I have. I'll wrap this up with a hearty recommendation to read "A Hundred Summers". You won't be sorry.
The constant flashbacks to round out endless details of a relationship breakup were increasingly irritating as the book progressed; they halted any momentum in the story while the end result is already known to the reader.
A final plot twist involves risking the main characters' lives in a hurricane in order to rescue the lying manipulating character who has caused seven years worth of suffering. Uh-huh, yeah, that seems likely.