The Summer Wives: A Novel (Paperback)

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From Entertainment Weekly, by Maureen Lee Lenker

Beatriz Williams has made a name for herself as a historical novelist with a knack for the obscured whisperings and yearnings of women’s lives, those so often absent from the historical record. (Click here for a full list of Williams's titles.) She adds to that canon with The Summer Wives, an elegiac romance and mystery that flits between three summers – 1930, 1951, and 1969 – on the small New England outpost of Winthrop Island.

In 1969, Miranda Schulyer returns to her teenage home on the island, a decaying estate known as Greyfriars, bearing a vast amount of secrets and wounds. Her arrival comes in the wake of Joseph Vargas’ escape from prison; Vargas is a local islander convicted of murdering her stepfather whom Miranda also found herself inexplicably drawn to as a girl. In both 1969 and 1951, Miranda fumbles at piecing together the yearnings of her heart and the path to her future.

Williams writes of Miranda’s journey in both timelines with a keen eye for the wounds unique to both the first flushes of teenage love and an older, deeper, more enduring ache. Miranda’s uncertainties, desires, and grief all linger just under the surface, waiting for someone to come and press her many bruises – as the reader waits, in turn, to see whether she will merely endure the pain, relish it, or push back.

Williams’ particular gift as a writer is peeling back the pages of history to breathe life into the interior lives of women — how they lived, loved, and lost within the expectations and limitations of their time. With The Summer Wives, she has perhaps crafted her most evocative and stirring novel yet. Its sense of loss, guilt, and recrimination packs a punch, but Williams also never loses a buoyant feeling of hope, a belief in a longed-for happily-ever-after of one’s own making. She weaves a spell that propels the reader forcefully into the past, crafting an intoxicating vintage atmosphere, a portrait of what may seem a more elegant time. But Williams also never falls into the trap of nostalgia, always taking care to draw back the curtain on this sparkling world to show the rottenness at its core – a rot that threatens to eat at the souls of her protagonists, lest they wrest themselves free from its influence.

Her immense talent as a writer is to usher you into a setting that feels as if it may only continue to exist, hell, maybe only ever existed, on the pages of books and the flickers of the silver screen. Once she takes you there, however, she doesn’t let you rest within it’s glittering confines, but rather exposes the costs of this world and the exacting toll it placed upon those who dared to yearn for more beyond their prescribed station and role in life. Here, this is enhanced by the fact that Miranda is a film star, playing dually with this notion of the divide between the false front women present to the world and their interior lives.

Given the novel’s circumstances – a first love potentially wrongfully imprisoned – it’s impossible not to draw comparisons to Atonement. The Summer Wives is perhaps less profound in some ways (it’s certainly less devastating), but it probes similar questions of passion, regret, and classism. Miranda and all the residents of Winthrop Island are caught in the stifling limitations of the 1950s – urged to keep up appearances as members of the more patrician families on the Island and to avoid getting too friendly with the local working class fishermen. More than anything, the novel is about learning to break free of those bonds – finding a way to live a life that’s true to oneself beyond the yoke of societal expectations.

The novel is also a compelling mystery that will keep you turning the pages to discover both the secrets of the past and the prospects of the future. Williams writes with compassion and empathy for all of her characters, beguiling you with twists and turns through the revelation of secrets that if not utterly unpredictable, are still shattering in their implications. You might see the truth coming like a large ocean wave rumbling offshore, but that doesn’t make it hurt any less when it finally crashes into shore.

With The Summer Wives, Williams has crafted a kaleidoscope of a novel – a mystery, a romance, and an utterly beguiling examination of the cost of secrets. With its pulsing period atmosphere, The Summer Wives is a startling portrait of the courage it requires to make your own second chances — and embrace them open-heartedly knowing full well they could slip through your fingers in an instant.

The Summer Wives by Beatriz Williams successfully portrays the roles of the very rich that seasonally inhabit a small island in Long Island Sound and the year-round immigrant residents who serve them.  Their story and secrets are revealed by Bianca, from a working class Portuguese family, and Miranda – whose widowed mother has married into the elite Fisher family.
— From Karen McCue

Summer 2019 Reading Group Indie Next List

The Summer Wives is a sweeping story that spans several decades and details the lives of members of an island community where old money rules and the locals and summer families are not supposed to mix—but they do anyway. This is a story of secrets, power, loss, and love, with a bit of Shakespeare to round things out. I was engaged from page one and found myself reading both the print edition and listening to an audio edition in my car so I could spend every possible moment with the characters and their stories. Even the minor characters had depth beyond what I expected.”
— Myrna Mibus, Content Bookstore, Northfield, MN


The Summer Wives is an exquisitely rendered novel that tackles two of my favorite topics: love and money. The glorious setting and drama are enriched by Williams’s signature vintage touch. It’s at the top of my picks for the beach this summer.”

—Elin Hilderbrand, author of The Perfect Couple

New York Times bestselling author Beatriz Williams brings us the blockbuster novel of the season—an electrifying postwar fable of love, class, power, and redemption set among the inhabitants of an island off the New England coast . . .

In the summer of 1951, Miranda Schuyler arrives on elite, secretive Winthrop Island as a schoolgirl from the margins of high society, still reeling from the loss of her father in the Second World War. When her beautiful mother marries Hugh Fisher, whose summer house on Winthrop overlooks the famous lighthouse, Miranda’s catapulted into a heady new world of pedigrees and cocktails, status and swimming pools. Isobel Fisher, Miranda’s new stepsister—all long legs and world-weary bravado, engaged to a wealthy Island scion—is eager to draw Miranda into the arcane customs of Winthrop society.

But beneath the island’s patrician surface, there are really two clans: the summer families with their steadfast ways and quiet obsessions, and the working class of Portuguese fishermen and domestic workers who earn their living on the water and in the laundries of the summer houses. Uneasy among Isobel’s privileged friends, Miranda finds herself drawn to Joseph Vargas, whose father keeps the lighthouse with his mysterious wife. In summer, Joseph helps his father in the lobster boats, but in the autumn he returns to Brown University, where he’s determined to make something of himself. Since childhood, Joseph’s enjoyed an intense, complex friendship with Isobel Fisher, and as the summer winds to its end, Miranda’s caught in a catastrophe that will shatter Winthrop’s hard-won tranquility and banish Miranda from the island for nearly two decades.

Now, in the landmark summer of 1969, Miranda returns at last, as a renowned Shakespearean actress hiding a terrible heartbreak. On its surface, the Island remains the same—determined to keep the outside world from its shores, fiercely loyal to those who belong. But the formerly powerful Fisher family is a shadow of itself, and Joseph Vargas has recently escaped the prison where he was incarcerated for the murder of Miranda’s stepfather eighteen years earlier. What’s more, Miranda herself is no longer a naïve teenager, and she begins a fierce, inexorable quest for justice for the man she once loved . . . even if it means uncovering every last one of the secrets that bind together the families of Winthrop Island.

About the Author

Beatriz Williams is the bestselling author of thirteen novels, including Her Last Flight, The Summer Wives, and The Golden Hour, as well as All the Ways We Said Goodbye, cowritten with Lauren Willig and Karen White. A native of Seattle, she graduated from Stanford University and earned an MBA in finance from Columbia University. She lives with her husband and four children near the Connecticut shore, where she divides her time between writing and laundry.

Praise For…

The Summer Wives is an exquisitely rendered novel that tackles two of my favorite topics: love and money. The glorious setting and drama are enriched by Williams’s signature vintage touch. It’s at the top of my picks for the beach this summer.”
— Elin Hilderbrand, author of The Perfect Couple

“Longtime Williams fans, readers of historical fiction and mysteries, and anyone seeking engaging plot twists will find satisfaction in these pages.”

“With just the right touch of bitters, Williams mixes a satisfyingly tempestuous—and eminently beachworthy—[follow-up] to her beloved Schuyler Sisters series.”
Kirkus (starred review)

“[A] satisfying simmer of a read.”
USA Today

”Another hot book for summer from the prolific Williams... A romantic, multilayered tale.”
Philadelphia Inquirer

“Engrossing and gripping, you will finish this book in one sitting.”
St. Louis Post Dispatch

The Summer Wives is a compulsively readable story that will make you swear you can smell the salt air.”

“This book is what the term “beach read” was made for.”

“Romance, class issues, dark secrets, and murder—it’s all here in this deliciously rich novel.”

“Williams has crafted a kaleidoscope of a novel – a mystery, a romance, and an utterly beguiling examination of the cost of secrets . . . The Summer Wives is a startling portrait of the courage it requires to make your own second chances.”
Entertainment Weekly

The Summer Wives by Beatriz Williams will give you the full order. It takes place on an exclusive island off Long Island Sound. Think: cocktails, sailing, croquet. A woman who visits as a teen falls in love with a local...who is later accused of murdering her stepfather. Intrigue, served.”  

Product Details
ISBN: 9780062660350
ISBN-10: 0062660357
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Publication Date: June 4th, 2019
Pages: 400
Language: English


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