In 1931, Smith College senior Lily Dane attends a football game with her friend Budgie Byrne to watch Budgie’s boyfriend play. The two girls have been friends since they shared their first taste of ice cream summering at Seaview, Rhode Island, home to both families’ ancestral beach cottages. As Budgie cheers on her all-star boyfriend, Graham Pendleton, Lily becomes mesmerized by the quarterback, piratically handsome (and Jewish) Nick Greenwald.
Beatriz Williams, the author, terms the novel “High Society meets the Perfect Storm.” http://bookmagnet.wordpress.com/2013/06/03/interview-with-beatriz-williams-author-of-a-hundred-summers/. She says:
But the book is really about all the things that take place beneath the surface of a persona and a community, and the social and sexual turmoil that was turning everything upside-down in the years after the First World War. That’s the real storm taking place at Seaview and Western culture generally, and I think the book rewards a close attention to the details.
(Note to self: great tag line for a query.)
Lily and Nick fall immediately in love and, on New Years’ Day in the middle of a snowstorm, elope.
But in a parallel story line narrated by Lily in 1938 from Seaview, we discover that it is Budgie and Nick who are married. Lily, her mother, her spicy Aunt Julie and Lily’s six year old sister Kiki must watch the Greenwald’s marriage from their beach house a few doors down.
Amidst the romance, the frustration, the obvious broken-heartedness of both Lily and Nick, there are elements of class warfare, anti-Semitism, the crash of 1929, rumors of WW2 and the rise of Hitler and finally, the infamous northeast Hurricane of 1938 that decimated beach communities including Napatree Point, on which the fictional Seaview is based. Williams’ harrowing description of the storm surge and its aftermath is particularly vivid. This website has actual photos of the community before and after the hurricane, showing the devastation. http://www.oocities.org/hurricanene/hurr1938.htm. Napatree Point has never been rebuilt and is now a nature preserve.
A Hundred Summers is a New York Times’ bestseller and Kirkus reviews calls it a candidate for the big beach read this year. I enjoyed it immensely. The delayed gratification and yearning of Lily and Nick is a stark contrast to much of today’s fiction. It is a good, old-fashioned love story. One review compared it to Daphne duMaurier.
Williams’ website: http://www.beatrizwilliams.com
Nick and Lily eat a lot of breakfasts and a lot of steaks. There’s also quite a bit of champagne being quaffed, despite the impact of prohibition until 1933, and gin and tonics at the beach. This would be my menu:
Gin & Tonic: 3 oz Gin, 4 oz Tonic, juice of 1/2 lime over tall glass of ice
Oysters Rockefeller. Oysters Rockefeller was developed by Antoine’s in New Orleans, but it just seems to be like the perfect dish for this beachy, tony novel. Here’s the supposedly original recipe: http://www.gumbopages.com/food/app/erstas-rock.html. That link alone has to merit a “like” for this blog post, doesn’t it, if not an actual follow?
Toast points with cream cheese and caviar
I recently caught a late night showing of Evil Under the Sun, a Peter Ustinov-as-Poirot 1930s-set Agatha Christie adaptation. Great movie, Maggie Smith, Jane Birkin, Roddy McDowell, James Mason, and Diana Rigg! Gorgeous 1930s high fashion costumes. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0083908/?ref_=nv_sr_1. But I digress: the soundtrack was totally Cole Porter. It’s available on iTunes. It would be the perfect backdrop for a book club discussion of A Hundred Summers. https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/evil-under-sun-music-from/id299660594.
MOVIE CASTING. This would be a really good movie, along the lines of The Notebook, I think.
Nick: I can’t find my Nick. Suggestions?
Lily: Jennifer Lawrence
Budgie: Natalie Portman (wouldn’t she look divine in all those 1930s styles?)
Graham: Armie Hammer
*Images postcards except for the football game which was from a football archive, no photographer listed