In 1931, Lily Dane first saw Nick Greenwald at a college football game.
In 1932, he proposed.
Now, in 1938, Lily is at Seaview, the wealthy Rhode Island beach community where she’s spent every summer of her life, and she’s seeing Nick for the first time in six years. He is accompanied by Budgie, Lily’s stylish, seductive childhood friend. Budgie is his wife.
And everything in between? Well, that’s the question.
A Hundred Summers is written in alternating timelines, one the story of Nick and Lily’s collegiate love affair, and the other in her present. As the two run in parallel, we slowly discover what went wrong, why she still can’t stop loving him, and what sinister circumstances and miscommunications built the web of missteps that split up two people who always had eyes only for each other. But as the knots of the past are finally untangled, the important question becomes, is it too late?
I originally heard about this book from the Goodreads monthly release newsletter, a source which once again has not led me astray. It’s adult, not YA, by the way. And it showed the added complexity I would hope from that distinction. A Hundred Summers was really the best of everything: it was intelligent, well-written, engrossing, and romantic.
Williams captured the perfect page-turner formula. Just as you make a shocking discovery in the present storyline, you hop into the past; just as you make one in the past, you’re whisked back to the present. Far from making things stilted or fragmented, the storylines fed off of each other’s energy and gained momentum together. Each page added depth and shades to all of the characters and coaxed out a little more investment in the story and its outcome.
I think the dialogue is what really made this book. It was so elegant and smooth, in that way that isn’t quite realistic (real people are never that eloquent or witty), but that doesn’t bother you because it’s done so well. It made me feel surrounded by a sense of romance and casual opulence.
One small issue that irritated me in A Hundred Summers was phrase repetition. For example, Lily used the phrase “the soft vee of my dress” at least twice—although maybe I was just rubbed the wrong way by the prissy spelling out of ‘vee’ when I felt ‘V’ would have sufficed–, and it seemed like she was always talking about her head buzzing with gin. I wished she would find new ways to say she was drunk.
A Hundred Summers was very smart and well-written, and I enjoyed every page. It had the added bonus of being historical fiction, and I loved feeling like I was painlessly learning something or building my knowledge (for instance, Nick is Jewish, and I got a perspective of the subtly antisemitic climate in the US leading up to WWII that I had never really been aware of). All while enjoying a pretty delicious love story. Sign up for the Goodreads newsletter, folks; it has yet to steer me wrong.
Squee for romance. Very elegant and, well, romantic.