Tuesday, August 6, 2013

A HUNDRED SUMMERS by Beatriz Williams (Books & Wine #5)

Published May 30, 2013 by Putnam Adult
Edition: hardcover, 357 pages
Genre: women's fiction, chick lit, historical, romance
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
BUY IT on Amazon 

"I wish I could remember more. I wish I had taken down every detail of Nick's appearance, his expression, his outline against the gray buildings of the station, because I was not to see him again until the summer of 1938, the summer the hurricane came and washed the world away."
Lovely romantic drama! I didn't expect any less from the author of Overseas - the heart-melting trope of time travel and eternal love between a WWI British officer and a modern day Wall Street analyst put Beatriz Williams on my map in 2012, and her latest release consolidates for me her status of 'must-read' writer in the women's fiction genre. If 'star-crossed-lovers' stories are your cup of tea, if your heart was held captive by The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks) or Sand Dollar (Sebastian Cole); if you, like me, grew up consuming Hollywood adaptations of popular novels such as A Summer Place by Sloan Wilson (1958) and The Sins Of Susan Slade by Doris Hume (1961), then there is a strong chance you will love A Hundred Summers. As maudlin as any good 'love-story-thwarted-by-external-forces'  can be, Williams' novel is a moving 'first person POV' remembrance  of how two fated lovers crossed each other's paths during their college years (fall of 1931, New Hampshire) and how social conventions, scandalous family secrets, and the schemes of an unsuspected player, tore them apart. 

Lily Dane is an old-fashioned girl, an honest and clean beauty. Unlike her childhood friend Budgie Byrne, who is "the exact fleshy representation of male desire", Lily is a diligent college student, yearning for the excitement of a journalistic career rather than batting her eyelashes at Graham Pendleton, the handsome star of the college football team. Unlike her wild and seductive friend, she is not a femme fatale, certainly not the kind of girl guys take on their car backseat for some fun. Neither is she interested in flirting with them - they are too conventional to catch her fancy. Until she meets Nick Greenwald, Graham's football team mate. "There is something so intense, so fulminant about his expression, like a man from another age." Handsome, solid and determined, Nick is a man in a thousand. Coming from a wealthy family, his place in society is secured as future head of his father's company, but like Lily he dreams of something more sublime and brilliant. The attraction between Nick and Lily is mutual and immediate, their romance a match made in heaven. Except that Nick is Jewish. Although not an observant one, Nick lives in a time of great hostility toward his faith, in an environment where nobody would touch Jews and their money with a ten foot pole. Unfortunately, his religious background and her family's disapproval are not the only insurmountable obstacles on Lily and Nick's way to happiness. Someone is secretly working to drive them apart.

True love transcends the test of time, defying the spell of a jealous enemy and the wrath of nature itself: seven years later, on the eve of the deadly hurricane that swept up the New England coast (September 21, 1938), our 'once-lovers' meet again in Seaview, Rhode Island, only to find out that love is more powerful than any disruptive force. Following a bizarre turn of events, Nick is married to Lily's childhood friend (obviously a marriage of convenience for the fascinating but penniless Budgie), and Lily, still single and craving for love, is ready to accept the courtship of Budgie's ex, Graham. Allowing herself to be happy with another man may help her ban from her mind the image of her first and only love married to another woman. Little does she know that Nick and Budgie's marriage is far from being perfect. Like the ocean on the turning tide, the sentiment that drew our protagonists together in their youth was never really gone or diminished... like a receding wave, it was just waiting for the moment to make it back to the shore. The memories of a love that could not come into full bloom at its first try keep flooding back in a whirlwind of nostalgic remembrances that repeatedly switch timeline between 1931 and 1938. The narration keeps shifting between past and present at a comfortable pace, through pleasant dialogues, a realistic regional 'feel' (the North-East) and a vivid description of a glamorous historical milieau (the aftermath of the Stock Market Crash and the pre-WWII era). The heady swirls of a Gershwin melody, the dazzling gowns and the hair pomade, the champagne cocktail parties and the scent of a Rhode Island summer are depicted by the author with great romantic flair and heart-wrenching drama. The delicate courtship and the intoxicating chemistry that sweep Nick and Lily in each other's arms are rendered with a luminous prose and irresistibly intimate and sensuous tones. A beautiful love story. Memorable and intense.



Somellier extraordinaire Andrea Mussone is back on the blog with a wine and food pairing that perfectly complements the sweet and dramatic tones of Beatriz Williams' historical romance novel.
"As a wine, and more precisely as a grape variety to be enjoyed with “A Hundred Summers”, I’ve immediately thought of a Gewurztraminer. The German name means “spicy Traminer”. It takes its name from the village of Tramin, located in South Tyrol, the German-speaking province in northern Italy, and it dates back to the XVI century. It generally offers the best results in cooler climates, growing either in the Old and New World. Quality speaking, Alsace (France) is probably one of the most interesting growing region, followed by Germany, Italy, California, Pacific Northwest, Australia, New Zealand, and Eastern Europe. Gewurtztraminer has high natural sugar content and the wines are white; it may be dry, medium dry, mellow or sweet. It’s one of the most pungent grapes. The nose is generally aromatic, floral, fruity and spicy with hints of rose petals, apricot, peach, exotic fruits such as lychee, grapefruit, passion fruit, mango and pepper. The fruit characteristics follow through on the palate; the wines are often medium to full bodied but always delicate, soft, off-dry on the sweet side, fresh, luscious, elegant and aromatic, even when fully dry. Great pairing with spicy Oriental, exotic and sweet-salty dishes, shellfish, foie gras, soft and strong cheeses, pastry and tarts."

Andrea Mussone, Italy


  1. The good news is that I've already purchased this book so your brilliant review is not adding to the book expenditures! :) Thanks for sharing this review. Truly. Brilliant.

    1. LOL! Thank you for the comment, Maryellen! And thank you for not putting the blame on me if you wallet is lighter today :) The truth is, our literary friendship will make us both broke, but we will always be happy. A book is a treasure...

  2. This sounds like my kind of book. Will go over and order it on Amazon. Thanks for the tip.