Book Title and Author: Montauk by Nicola Harrison
Publication Date and Publisher: June 4, 2019 by St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 400 pages
Buy on Amazon.com
Date Read: May 12, 2019 (e-arc)
Montauk, Long Island, 1938.
A simple town on the brink of a glamorous future.
A marriage drifting apart.
A life on the edge of what is and what could be…
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…
Montauk is more historical romance than it is historical fiction and typically that’s not what I’m looking for when I pick up a historical novel, so I was very pleasantly surprised to be swept away by the utter beauty of Nicola Harrison’s debut novel.
Harrison impressed me from the start with her writing style. It is lyrical and flows so elegantly as she describes the beauty of Montauk, the charming village off the end of Long Island known still today for its gorgeous beaches, luxury resort, and historic lighthouse.
In 1938, Beatrice Bordeaux and husband Harry head to Montauk Manor, the luxury resort built by famous financier Carl Fisher (developer of Miami Beach), with plans that she will spend the summer there with other wealthy wives while he visits from the city on the weekends―although he rarely ever visits as promised. Beatrice loses all hope in reigniting their passion and trying for a child, especially once she discovers Harry has other interests.
Beatrice, who is from a middle-class family, soon grows bored and annoyed with the gossipy, sniping, idle other wives and takes off exploring the seaside village where she befriends Elizabeth, the laundress for the resort. Elizabeth and her family remind Beatrice of her own roots, and she begins to clearly see what she’s missing in her own marriage and life.
Beatrice also becomes close to Thomas, the lighthouse keeper, and the relationship that develops between the two is quite lovely and gives Beatrice a chance to discover the woman she really wants to be. Yet, it’s emotional and bittersweet, and I shed some tears―so maybe keep some tissues handy.
I really enjoyed this one and the issues it explored such as class privileges and societal norms of the time period and true love without money versus living in a loveless marriage. If you like your hist-fic to have a romantic side, then Montauk is just perfect. It’s also an ideal summer read since Harrison does such a wonderful job taking you right to the beach town of Montauk!
**Thank you NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for an ARC. All opinions are my own.**