“Filled with 1960s nostalgia and a host of deftly drawn characters” (Renée Rosen, author of Park Avenue Summer), Summer Darlings pulls back the curtain on one mysterious and wealthy family as seen through the eyes of their nanny—a college student who, while falling in love on Martha’s Vineyard, is also forced to reckon with the dark side of privilege.
In 1962, coed Heddy Winsome leaves her hardscrabble Irish Brooklyn neighborhood behind and ferries to glamorous Martha’s Vineyard to nanny for one of the wealthiest families on the island. But as she grows enamored with the alluring and seemingly perfect young couple and chases after their two mischievous children, Heddy discovers that her academic scholarship at Wellesley has been revoked, putting her entire future at risk.
Determined to find her place in the couple’s wealthy social circles, Heddy nurtures a romance with the hip surfer down the beach while wondering if the better man for her might be a quiet, studious college boy instead. But no one she meets on the summer island—socialite, starlet, or housekeeper—is as picture-perfect as they seem, and she quickly learns that the right last name and a house in a tony zip code may guarantee privilege, but that rarely equals happiness.
Praised as “a perfect summer book packed with posh people, glamor, mystery, and one clever, brave, young nanny” by New York Times bestselling author Nancy Thayer, Summer Darlings promises entrance to a rarefied world, for anyone who enjoyed Tigers in Red Weather or The Summer Wives.
Journalist Foster makes her fiction debut with this engrossing chronicle of an impoverished Brooklyn college student's summer spent as a nanny for a wealthy family on Martha's Vineyard in 1962. As the child of a struggling single mother, 21-year-old Heddy, an aspiring screenwriter, hopes to make the most of her acquaintance with the seemingly perfect Ted and Jean-Rose Williams, the envy of their social circle. Heddy tends to the couple's bratty children, Teddy and Anna, while befriending their housekeeper, Grace. In true beach-read fashion, Heddy catches the eye of awkward Sullivan and confident Ash, two young men who spend their summers on the island, and is taken under the wing of Jean-Rose's rival, movie star Gigi McCabe. Heddy soon witnesses the Williams's dark side: physically abusive Ted is likely having an affair, and catty Jean-Rose is barely interested in their kids, with the exception of berating Teddy for liking dolls. Matters come to a head when she accuses Grace and Heddy of stealing, and a staid subplot about choosing between Sullivan and Ash blooms into something else altogether. Foster's musings on money and class, along with her believable depictions of over-the-top behavior, elevate this tale above typical summer fare.
A Mid-Century Nanny Diaries
On the whole it was a decent book, it reminded me a bit of the Nanny Diaries. Fortunately, it had some criminal intrigue to set it apart. I enjoyed it most of the time, but felt like the ending rushed to its conclusion (deadline?), and the sudden burst of pragmatism was somewhat out of the heroine’s character. Speaking of, some characters are rather under-developed, I would have liked to get to know them, for better or worse. A closer look at the antagonists would have gone a long way. Further, simply painting one as purely a villain when he clearly had his own cross to bear (no spoilers) was, for lack of a better word, lazy. The author was on to something in portraying how idyllic circumstances aren’t always what they seem. I just wish she’d gone a few layers deeper.