Hey there, Beach Readers!
We hope you’ve been enjoying the story so far! Read through our description and commentary, then feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.
At the start of the book, we’re introduced to Lily, the sweet, smart and level-headed narrator, and her wild, flirtatious best friend Budgie.
In the first chapter, Lily meets Nick Greenwald, the handsome quarterback of the Dartmouth football team, and feelings quickly develop. While Lily is warned of their difference in religion, their chemistry, shared values and big dreams bring them closer, and I can’t help but love the honest, witty exchanges between the two. (“Your father owns a history company?” [Lily] says teasingly. Nick laughs. “No, everyone on Wall Street has a history degree, though you’d never know it, the way they keep making the same mistakes, crash after crash.”)
However, while we watch their relationship grow, we’re simultaneously seeing the aftermath of its demise, as the book alternates between the fall of 1931 (when they first meet) and the summer of 1938, when Lily is reunited with Nick and Budgie–who are newly married–in the picture-perfect summer resort town of Seaview, Rhode Island, where Lily is spending the season with her mother and young sister, Kiki. While Lily acts cool and nonchalant when speaking to or of the couple, I think she clearly still has feelings for Nick–and, knowing of Nick what we do from the flashbacks, he doesn’t seem to fit with Budgie.
Meanwhile, Budgie seems to be attempting to rekindle her friendship with Lily, but I have a suspicion she’s up to no good, and perhaps had ulterior motives for returning to Seaview in the first place. What are your thoughts? Do you have any ideas on what secrets Budgie, Nick, or any of the characters might be hiding? As chapter nine ends, Nick is introduced for the first time to Lily’s father, and things, at this point go a litte awry. Do you think Lily’s father will come around and give Nick a chance?
Also playing a big part is the town of Seaview (inspired by the real-life community of Napatree Point)–set on a small, idyllic parcel of land that curves “around the rim of Rhode Island in a long and tapering finger.” Williams’ descriptions of the coastline, historic summer homes, and its close-knit residents truly transport you to the town: “Our house lay at the end of the Neck, the last of the forty-three shingled cottages, right up against the old battery and with its own little cove that hollowed out from the rocks…If I wanted company, I walked out the door and turned left, down the long line of houses, and I was sure to see a familiar face before I had gone a hundred yards.” I find it tough to imagine how the real-life residents, who carried on with their bridge games and beach club parties as if everything were normal–as they had every summer–were about to have their world torn apart.
On another note, one character I find amusing and intriguing is Aunt Julie. Though she’s a little eccentric (and is never without a drink in her hand), her tidbits of humor and wisdom throughout the pages seem very true to life. (Things like, “Everyone has a little bump in the road when they’re young. God knows I’ve had a few. You pick yourself up. Move on.”) What are your thoughts on Aunt Julie? Would she annoy you, or would you be friends? (I’m going with the latter!)
Post your thoughts on the book so far in the comments below, and remember we’ll be discussing through chapter 18 next week.
Favorite quote so far: “Just give me sunshine and a sandy beach, and I’m as happy as a clam.” – Aunt Julie 🙂