Review: A HUNDRED SUMMERS, by Beatriz Williams

Review by Alison Doherty
A Hundred Summers
Beatriz Williams
G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2013

It’s not summer any more, but you can hold onto the season by reading A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams. Let me warn you not to judge this book by its back cover. This book does deal with romance, female friendships, and the ocean, but it’s no mere beach read. It contains some of the best writing16158535 and character development I’ve read this year.

I think that the goodreads summary gives a little too much away, so here is some background. The book is told from the perspective of Lily Dane and alternates between 1931/32 when Lily is a Smith College student and best friends with Budgie Byrne and falling in love with Nick Greenwald and the summer of 1938 when Lily has dropped out of her former social circle but ends up summering in the same beach town as Nick and Budge, who are now married.

This sounds like your basic chick-lit beach read, but things aren’t as they seem. At first I thought I knew the whole story and it felt terribly clichéd. But I didn’t care because the writing was so good. As the story moved on, I discovered both the characters and their history together contain layer after layer of secret complexities. I stayed up until four in the morning rereading chapters trying to put all the puzzle pieces together.

Lily is a character readers will fall in love with. She seems perfect (intelligent, innocent, kind, etc.) however Williams portrays that perfection through showing Lily’s faults. Nick functions as a believable romantic lead (also pretty perfect except for the fact he’s Jewish so Lily’s parents don’t approve) and Budgie is the girl readers love to hate. However, the moments where these three leading characters transcend these roles are the most exciting sections of the book, which is also populated with well-drawn and quirky secondary characters.

As I mentioned previously, Williams’ writing style thrilled me. She puts into her writing several of the elements new writers are told to say away from: long descriptions of setting and characters’ physical appearances, adjectives, and even occasional adverbs. She used these tools with mastery to create beautiful, flowing sentences.

As a reader, you will fall in love with A Hundred Summer for it’s characters and you will never forget them. As a writer, you will study Williams’ sentences trying to find her magic formula. I highly recommend this book to readers and writers alike. It might not be quite as fun as gossiping with your best friend and a cold cocktail, but it’s definitely the next best thing.
Alison Doherty can be found on Twitter @AlisonCDoherty or on her blog:

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