Plot-Driven Novel About Secrets, Class, and Murder. More fiction than historical fiction. Awarded 3 stars on Goodreads.
Like the other Beatriz Williams novels I have read, this one is plot driven. It’s structured like a puzzle. As you read, you slowly assemble different sections of a larger puzzle but don’t see the entire picture until the very end.
It all takes place on a small resort island off New England coast in the years between 1930 and 1970. (The author reveals in the Afterword that the location is modeled on Fisher’s Island. But if you aren’t familiar with that name, think Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket.) It’s an island with a deep divide — between the prominent and wealthy families that spend summers at their opulent vacation homes and the locals who seek out modest livings providing the products and services the rich folks expect. So, at its heart, this is a novel about class and the myriad ways people in power use and abuse those they consider lesser beings. It’s also about the unspoken pact among islanders to protect each other and keep secrets from outsiders.
The central protagonist is Miranda Schuyler (the Schuylers are well known to fans of other Beatriz William novels), a beautiful girl whose mother marries into one of the island’s wealthy families when Miranda is in her late teens. That post World War II story (circa 1951) is one strand. A second thread (circa 1930) concerns events around Miranda’s stepfather’s first marriage and a secret romance with a young immigrant. The third story (1969) deals with Miranda, returning to the island, now a 36 year old movie star, recently separated from her husband, and finding her mother struggling financially and the family mansion in disrepair.
No spoilers but mixed in are lots of surprises — passionate first love, mismatched mates, deceit, illegitimate birth, wrongful imprisonment, and yes, even murder. (You see now why I call this a plot-driven novel.)
It’s is a quick read, ideal for the beach. Don’t expect any real depth to the characters or subtle psychology. Just read it for the enjoyment of putting together the puzzle.