The Beach at Summerly

Morrow. Jun. 2023. 368p. ISBN 9780063020849. $30. F
Told through two timelines set eight years apart, this historical novel from Williams (The Summer Wives) builds tension, drops in details, and hints at actions in the past that are not fully disclosed until the end. Emilia “Cricket” Winthrop, a descendant of the settlers of Winthrop Island, lives there year-round, in contrast with the wealthy mainland families who visit every summer, like the Peabodys. Cricket, the daughter of the caretaker of Summerly, the Peabody estate, spent many summers with the three Peabody boys. Then World War II took the boys away, and returned only two, Amory and Shep Peabody, both of whom have tangled romantic ties to Cricket. When the Peabodys come back to Summerly in 1946, they bring Mrs. Peabody’s sister, Olive Rainsford, who becomes the catalyst for a tragedy that affects both families. Years later, in 1954, Cricket is called to Washington, DC, where she must reckon with the events of summer 1946. The novel’s well-developed characters engage readers’ emotions while representing a variety of economic and political viewpoints; Williams’s account of how individuals might have been persuaded to spy for the Soviet Union is an unexpected bonus.
VERDICT This page-turner has depth of feeling and intriguing historical details that will sweep readers off their feet.
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