The debut offering from Nicola Harrison on the blog today: part woman’s fiction, part family saga and a dash of romance all come into this story set in 1938 Long Island
New Yorkers love to escape the summers and head for the relatively more tranquil areas along the shore, from Newport to Long Island, and Montauk, the quiet fishing village for most of the year plays host to the ‘see and be seen’ crowd for three months of summer. Filled with parties, lunches, events and relaxation, anyone who is hoping to be seen as “Anyone in the city” is there. Beatrix has gone there with her husband Harry: their life of late has hit a samey-vibe, and she’s hoping that getting away and relaxing will allow them to reconnect and help her to feel more ‘a part’ of this world that has never quite fitted in with her upbringing. Of course, there are twists and turns, and a man who is the polar opposite of Bea’s husband, involved with people who are also far different to Bea’s current companions – the ‘doyennes’ of society who focus on committees for charity, luncheons, who’s who and looking their best at all times.
To the good, the descriptions and even the sense of ‘who’ everyone that Bea encounters were solid and easy to picture. The story felt very much tied to the ‘time’ and with some of the associated social constraints that came through quite clearly. But Bea – oh Bea. Naïve to the point of stupidity and disbelief. We’re told she’s college educated and kind-hearted, but frankly her inability to navigate some of the simpler interactions – and to always be surprised when things are unexpected was tiring and wore on my patience. Part of that was Bea herself, it just didn’t seem as if she learned anything from her own experiences as the story went on, and was always ‘taken aback’ by reactions or thoughts. The naivete thing was carried a bit too far with her….I expect some seeing as she was very much a woman of her time -but enough is enough. Even in the Tudor court people were aware of hypocrisy and self-serving agendas -but not Bea.
Starting with lots of promise, it was difficult to get past the up and down relationship that I had to Bea, she wasn’t endearing due to her naivete, it was annoying – and the transitions between narrative, conversations and point of view asides were choppy and frequently abrupt – several sentences could go by before it became clear what had happened, and often the why went by unnoticed. Most certainly this could have been cleaned up a bit with editing, as Harrison’s descriptions are solid and evocative, while the character of Bea needed to show some actual growth and recognition of having “experienced’ things that repeatedly surprised her. There’s promise in the overall impression of her work, however, and this means that I’ll be certain to be watching for more.
Author: Nicola Harrison
Genre: Depression Era, Family Saga, Historic Woman's Fiction, Pre World War II, Romantic Elements, Setting: American
Published by: St. Martin's Press
Published on: 4 June, 2019
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Audio Length: 14 Hours: 14 minutes
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Montauk, Long Island, 1938.
For three months, this humble fishing village will serve as the playground for New York City's wealthy elite. Beatrice Bordeaux was looking forward to a summer of reigniting the passion between her and her husband, Harry. Instead, tasked with furthering his investment interest in Montauk as a resort destination, she learns she'll be spending 12 weeks sequestered with the high society wives at the Montauk Manor - a 200-room seaside hotel - while Harry pursues other interests in the city.
College-educated but raised a modest country girl in Pennsylvania, Bea has never felt fully comfortable among these privileged women, whose days are devoted not to their children but to leisure activities and charities that seemingly benefit no one but themselves. She longs to be a mother herself, as well as a loving wife, but after five years of marriage, she remains childless while Harry is increasingly remote and distracted. Despite lavish parties at the Manor and the Yacht Club, Bea is lost and lonely and befriends the manor's laundress, whose work ethic and family life stir memories of who she once was.
As she drifts further from the society women and their preoccupations and closer toward Montauk's natural beauty and community spirit, Bea finds herself drawn to a man nothing like her husband - stoic, plainspoken, and enigmatic. Inspiring a strength and courage she had almost forgotten, his presence forces her to face a haunting tragedy of her past and question her future.
Desperate to embrace moments of happiness, no matter how fleeting, she soon discovers that such moments may be all she has, when fates conspire to tear her world apart....
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.