We Could Be Beautiful…here is a compulsively readable and twisty novel about Catherine, Manhattan socialite with an outward appearance of having it all: the posh digs, the creative art/card boutique, interesting friends…if that is what you consider “all.” Catherine desperately wants a husband and family, and to find that missing piece to feel fulfilled.
Enter William, suave and accomplished banker whose outward appearance depicts the perfect beau to Catherine. A charming courtship ensues. Catherine tells her mother, in an Alzheimer’s facility, about William, and she immediately closes up. The more Catherine prods, the more tight-lipped her mother becomes, but Catherine blames it on her disease. She and William quickly move in together, and we quickly pick up on some of William’s idiosyncracies. This is when my antennae go up and I realize I did check out a psychological thriller.
A little reminiscent of the old Julia Roberts movie “Sleeping With the Enemy,” We Could Be Beautiful is a good read. Swan Huntley maintains a moderate and steady pace, allowing the chilling twists to creep up on you. I was on the right track, but not completely, and I like that. I want to have an inkling, but be surprised. I am quite glad I gave We Could Be Beautiful a try.
Invincible Summer: a debut novel by Alice Adams, and if I am judging a book by its cover, title and first chapter, perhaps also a delightful beach read. After a few chapters, I thought, am I, just barely middle-aged, too old to read this narrative of the lives of 4 twenty-somethings as they graduate from college and figure out what to do with their lives? I mean, my 20s were not as free-spirited as theirs, and I have figured out this chapter of my life. But I read on…because even though I couldn’t quite relate, I couldn’t quite stop thinking about Sylvie, Eva, Lucien and Benedict as they scatter from their university in Bristol, England, searching for careers, love, purpose and meaning in their lives. The more I read about Eva’s career as a derivatives trader, Sylvie’s wild and frequent romances, Lucien as club promoter and sometimes drug dealer, and Benedict as scientist and college professor, the more I liked, and the more I thought. (Note to self: a book that starts with quotes by Albert Camus isn’t usually “a sand between the toes” read.)
Adams takes us from summer to summer for 20 years, and continues the 4 narratives from four different perspectives rather seamlessly. Sometimes novels that go from character to character have me flipping ahead and then back–but Invincible Summer was smooth.
There is a particularly thought-provoking passage toward the end of the novel:
He ran his fingers through his hair. ‘So I’ve nothing to complain about. It’s just that…God, you know how now we’re old enough to speak openly? It’s just this is so bittersweet. Seeing you, I mean. Have you ever had a moment when you look back over your life and see clearly all the moments when you could have done something differently and then your life might have taken the other direction?’ …
Maybe we didn’t miss our moment at all. Maybe this is it, this is the only moment we ever could have had.
And that, I understand.
I look forward to a new Beatriz Williams book like I looked forward to my birthday when I was a child. (well, to be honest, even now.) I love them! Williams has a way of teleporting me back in time, adding the glamour of an age, and telling a story I don’t want to end. A Certain Age (another of my beach vacation reads) is a stay up all night novel.
The Roaring Twenties, New York Society. Mrs. Theresa Marshall has fallen in love with a younger man, and takes advantage of the open relationship she has with her husband for an affair with Captain Octavian Rofrano. He loves her and would like to marry her, but divorce in Theresa’s social class in the 1920s just won’t happen. Meanwhile, Theresa’s brother Ox decides to marry Sophie Fortescue, daughter of one of his investors. In keeping with the mores of the times, Theresa has Octavian act as her brother’s cavalier and asks Sophie to marry Ox. Page-turning intrigue follows.
Williams based A Certain Age on the Richard Strauss opera, “Der Rosenkavalier,” and reading a synopsis (if you didn’t see the opera at the Met this past April) is worthwhile. A Certain Age has the charm and finish of a classic novel, but reads like delicious popular fiction. I highly recommend it!
I recently indulged in a week in a cottage by the ocean, and read 5 excellent novels, one after another. The ultimate luxury for a book lover! One of those novels was Thomas Christopher Greene’s latest: If I Forget You. I’ve not read Greene before (The Headmaster’s Wife) , but have watched him grow in popularity on bestseller and book lists. The reviews looked good and the book came in just as I was leaving; I added it to my bag.
Henry Gold, Jewish, working class, from Rhode Island, is a poet and aspiring professor attending the elite Bannister College on a baseball scholarship. Margot Fuller, privileged daughter and trust fund child of Manhattan socialites, also attends Bannister College. The two fall in love, but circumstances and mistakes keep them apart. Years later, Henry is a divorced father of Jess, and Margot has ended up in a loveless marriage, trying to fill her days in suburban Connecticut. The two meet by chance in Manhattan, and reconnect.
Told in alternating points of view and bouncing back and forth between their college days and their grown up present day lives, If I Forget You is a gorgeous love story about missed opportunities, societal pressures, and second chances. I thought it was a lovely read, light enough for vacation, but meaningful enough to continue to ponder.
Here is a palette cleanser to indulge in between literary fiction and thrillers, for tennis fans looking for a summer/beach read. The Singles Game, by the author of The Devil Wears Prada, is an insider’s behind the scenes ticket to the professional tennis world.
The Singles Game features Charlotte “Charlie” Silver, an up and coming player injured at Wimbledon. She switches coaches, reinvents her image, starts dating another handsome tennis star, and changes from America’s Sweetheart to “The Warrior Princess.” Charlie tries to come back to win a Grand Slam. Her adversaries are classic love to hate them characters, and her love interest ripped from the cover of a romance novel.
Weisberger drops enough names and creates characters who are fictional yet reminiscent of real players and actors to give the reader that People Magazine voyeurism some of us enjoy every once in a while. (Some of us more frequently…at our library, the staff often has a pool going on Fridays to guess who will be on the cover of People.)
A quick, fun, slightly gossipy read worthy of your beach bag.