Today, Great New Books team member Nina Badzin shares one of her favorite recent reads, and we are giving away one hardcover copy of A HUNDRED SUMMERS to one lucky commenter, thanks to Beatriz Williams’s publisher, Berkley / Penguin (see details below).

A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams

There couldn’t be a better time to discuss Beatriz Williams’ excellent historical novel A Hundred Summers than in the middle of the coldest winter many of us can remember. A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams

The well paced action of A Hundred Summers begins in the summer of 1938. Young socialite Lily Dane intends to spend the season as she has spent every summer of her life–at her family’s beautiful beach home in the oceanfront community of Seaview, Rhode Island. Seaview makes Lily think of innocent years on that beach, when she was inseparable from her former best friend, Budgie, whose family had a home there as well.

Unfortunately Lily’s plans for peaceful summer are disrupted when she hears that Budgie, who recently married Lily’s former fiancé, Nick Greenwald, are returning to Seaview to restore Budgie’s family home. We do not know at this point what came between Nick and Lily (whether it was Budgie or something else). But we know that Lily has not moved on since they separated six or seven years earlier.

All of this sounds like an old-fashioned soap opera, but the situation and characters are more complicated than they may appear. Williams tells the story of the unlikely pairing of the wholesome, upstanding Nick and the conniving Budgie by alternating the storytelling between the events of 1931–the summer when Lily and Nick fell in love and came close to eloping–and the events of 1938, when Nick and Budgie arrive in Seaview. We get an equal taste of the former friendship between Lily and Budgie contrasted with their attempts at reconciliation in the current storyline.

It would seem that Nick and Lily ultimately did not marry because Lily’s family objected to Nick pedigree. (His father was Jewish, which ironically would not have deemed him “Jewish enough” for many Jewish families.) But of course there is more to the collapse of their relationship than neither Lily nor the reader quite understand until the tension of the story builds and eventually unfolds in the last chapters.

In the 1938 storyline, we also get Lily’s attempt at a relationship with Yankees pitcher Graham Pendleton (you have to love that name) who dated Budgie in their college years. Despite Graham’s desire to marry Lily and despite Budgie’s attempts to keep Nick’s loyalty, the connection between Nick and Lily cannot be denied. Williams weaves the rising tension of Nick and Lily’s past and current romance with the crisis of a hurricane that strikes New England in the summer of 1938.

A Hundred Summers has romance, friendship gone wrong, jealousy, and all the family drama that comes along with unwanted family obligation. It’s a great read with beautiful writing in a distinct setting. Many reviewers called A Hundred Summers the perfect summer read. I say it’s the perfect winter read for a chance to escape and feel the heat of the setting and the story’s tension. Enjoy! (And a quick thanks to my friend Libby, who recommended I read this one.)

 

Nina Badzin is a contributing writer at Brain, Child Magazine’s website and a freelance writer with articles in the Huffington Post, The Jewish Daily Forward, Kveller, and elsewhere. Her short stories also appear in various literary magazines. Nina lives in Minneapolis with her husband and four children.

To enter the drawing to win a copy of Beatriz Williams’s novel, A HUNDRED SUMMERS, leave a comment (any comment) below, from Wednesday, February 12 until Friday, February 14 at midnight Eastern time.

Great New Books will email the winner and announce it in the comments on Saturday, February 15. (Entries for the Continental US only, please.) As always, thanks for helping us to spread the word about great books and thank you for joining us!