An epic and cinematic novel by debut author Nicola Harrison, Montauk captures the glamour and extravagance of a summer by the sea with the story of a woman torn between the life she chose and the life she desires.
Montauk, Long Island, 1938.
For three months, this humble fishing village will serve as the playground for New York City’s wealthy elite. Beatrice Bordeaux was looking forward to a summer of reigniting the passion between her and her husband, Harry. Instead, tasked with furthering his investment interest in Montauk as a resort destination, she learns she’ll be spending twelve weeks sequestered with the high society wives at The Montauk Manor—a two-hundred room seaside hotel—while Harry pursues other interests in the city.
College educated, but raised a modest country girl in Pennsylvania, Bea has never felt fully comfortable among these privileged women, whose days are devoted not to their children but to leisure activities and charities that seemingly benefit no one but themselves. She longs to be a mother herself, as well as a loving wife, but after five years of marriage she remains childless while Harry is increasingly remote and distracted. Despite lavish parties at the Manor and the Yacht Club, Bea is lost and lonely and befriends the manor’s laundress whose work ethic and family life stir memories of who she once was.
As she drifts further from the society women and their preoccupations and closer toward Montauk’s natural beauty and community spirit, Bea finds herself drawn to a man nothing like her husband –stoic, plain spoken and enigmatic. Inspiring a strength and courage she had almost forgotten, his presence forces her to face a haunting tragedy of her past and question her future.
Desperate to embrace moments of happiness, no matter how fleeting, she soon discovers that such moments may be all she has, when fates conspire to tear her world apart…
Harrison's satisfactory debut follows a woman's life as it's turned upside down during a summer spent on Long Island. In 1938, Beatrice Bordeaux and her banker husband, Harry, arrive in Montauk, Long Island, where Beatrice will spend the summer while Harry works in New York City during the week, returning for weekends. All of the wealthy socialites have routines and expectations of their peers, planning parties and indulging themselves with fancy foods and expensive clothes. But Beatrice, a country girl, takes solitary bike rides and becomes enamored of the small, beautiful fishing village. Its kindhearted residents serve the elites staying at the Montauk Manor hotel, and the handsome, down-to-earth Thomas Brown, who tends the lighthouse, is especially intriguing to Beatrice. She's determined to stay faithful to her husband, despite a coolness that has arisen in their marriage, until she learns he has been busy with more than his work back in the city. More details of the era would've added much-needed texture to the story; instead, the novel feels like it could be set at any time (with the language often sounding contemporary). Still, readers looking for a story with a strong lead will find one here.
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“Beatrice, don’t you see what I’m saying? He needs people like me to come in and save him so he doesn’t go under completely. We’re going to help him. And you, my darling, by staying out here for the summer and getting to know Montauk, you’ll be an asset to me. We could be spending a lot of time here in the future; it’s important to me that you like it.” He took my face in his hands and he kissed me. “I want you to be with me on this, Beatrice, in every way; can you do that for me?”
These days , we look back at 1938 and laugh sometimes. In a world where women were still eye candy and were perceived as they didn’t have the brains to do much of anything, Beatrice questions why Harry wants her to stay at the seaside Montauk Manor all summer while he commutes back to New York City. They can’t afford to stay there; can they? Sure it’s really nice, but Beatrice doesn’t come from the “monied set”. Will she “fit in?”.
Beatrice is bored. She and Harry have tried for years to have a baby. Maybe this summer idle will resolve that. However, Harry’s spending more time in the City than with her. Not impressed wth “the girls around the pool” she makes friends with Elizabeth, who works as a laundress at the Manor. Through her she finds the workers on the Island much more to her liking.
This “summer read,”romance novel” draws us into the sociology of the world of the thirties dressed in the wildness of Montauk, which certainly becomes a character in and of itself. Nicole Harrison certainly writes a compelling book. It is quite readable and descriptive...at times uncomfortable, but entertaining. Recommended 4/5
[ I received this book from NetGalley and chose to review it]
Historical Romance Fiction
Montauk by Nicola Harrison is a stunning first book. Montauk is historical fiction that reminds us how different life was in 1938 America. I liked the depictions of the life of wealthy, middle and lower class New Yorkers, the struggles of life and death, how our actions affect so many. It’s a realistic story of each characters plans, but how little power they have to implement them because of circumstances they can’t control. Nicola Harrison has been added to my favorites list.
. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. I appreciate the opportunity and thank the author and publisher for allowing me to read, enjoy and review this book.