Tuesday, June 25, 2013

A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams

A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams
(Putnam, 2013)
Format: audio download via Audiobook Jukebox (narrated by Kathleen McInerney for Penguin Audio)

From Goodreads: "Memorial Day, 1938: New York socialite Lily Dane has just returned with her family to the idyllic oceanfront community of Seaview, Rhode Island, expecting another placid summer season among the familiar traditions and friendships that sustained her after heartbreak. 

That is, until Greenwalds decide to take up residence in Seaview.

Nick and Budgie Greenwald are an unwelcome specter from Lily’s past: her former best friend and her former fiancé, now recently married—an event that set off a wildfire of gossip among the elite of Seaview, who have summered together for generations. Budgie insinuates herself back into Lily's friendship with an overpowering talent for seduction...and an alluring acquaintance from their college days, Yankees pitcher Graham Pendleton. But the ties that bind Lily to Nick are too strong and intricate to ignore, and the two are drawn back into long-buried dreams, despite their uneasy secrets and many emotional obligations. 

Under the scorching summer sun, the unexpected truth of Budgie and Nick’s marriage bubbles to the surface, and as a cataclysmic hurricane barrels unseen up the Atlantic and into New England, Lily and Nick must confront an emotional cyclone of their own, which will change their worlds forever."

There are times, you know, when I can become convinced that the audiobook narrator is actually the narrator of the story, telling me the whole thing as it happens. It helps, of course, when the story is full of immediacy and passion and intensity. It took about two minutes into McInerney's reading of Williams's new novel for me to link her inextricably with Lily Dane. And oh, Lily Dane! What a character. I find it hard not to refer to her as a person, instead of remembering that she's a fiction. She's complete and complex and compelling indeed. 

I enjoyed Williams's debut, Overseas, but wasn't as excited by it as the buzz had led me to believe I would be. Well, never mind. She more than made up for it here. She has a cunning and expert knack at layering together Lily's past and present, building tension and intrigue and surprising me over and over with the unexpected. And still letting me stay a step or two ahead of Lily, without diminishing her in any way - often Lily's blind spots are also her strengths. And she calls upon each of those strengths as the hundred year storm blows in to Seaview, turning the emotional threats to her and all she loves into a physical one, as well. 

It's just so perfectly constructed. The novel is thoroughly populated, and inhabits its times and places fully. I want Lily Dane to live happily ever after, and in my mind, that's exactly what she's doing.

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