Author: Beatriz Williams
Rating: ✶✶✶/5 stars
In the summer of 1951, Miranda Schuyler arrives on elite, secretive Winthrop Island as a schoolgirl from the margins of high society, still reeling from the loss of her father in the Second World War. When her beautiful mother marries Hugh Fisher, whose summer house on Winthrop overlooks the famous lighthouse, Miranda’s catapulted into a heady new world of pedigrees and cocktails, status and swimming pools. Isobel Fisher, Miranda’s new stepsister—all long legs and world-weary bravado, engaged to a wealthy Island scion—is eager to draw Miranda into the arcane customs of Winthrop society.
But beneath the island’s patrician surface, there are really two clans: the summer families with their steadfast ways and quiet obsessions, and the working class of Portuguese fishermen and domestic workers who earn their living on the water and in the laundries of the summer houses. Uneasy among Isobel’s privileged friends, Miranda finds herself drawn to Joseph Vargas, whose father keeps the lighthouse with his mysterious wife. In summer, Joseph helps his father in the lobster boats, but in the autumn he returns to Brown University, where he’s determined to make something of himself. Since childhood, Joseph’s enjoyed an intense, complex friendship with Isobel Fisher, and as the summer winds to its end, Miranda’s caught in a catastrophe that will shatter Winthrop’s hard-won tranquility and banish Miranda from the island for nearly two decades.
Now, in the landmark summer of 1969, Miranda returns at last, as a renowned Shakespearean actress hiding a terrible heartbreak. On its surface, the Island remains the same—determined to keep the outside world from its shores, fiercely loyal to those who belong. But the formerly powerful Fisher family is a shadow of itself, and Joseph Vargas has recently escaped the prison where he was incarcerated for the murder of Miranda’s stepfather eighteen years earlier. What’s more, Miranda herself is no longer a naïve teenager, and she begins a fierce, inexorable quest for justice for the man she once loved . . . even if it means uncovering every last one of the secrets that bind together the families of Winthrop Island.
It is a testament to Ms. Williams’ writing that she kept me reading and engaged even though I didn’t like 95% of the characters in this book. I actually liked everyone less as the book went on. Only the main character’s love interest, Joseph, didn’t get under my skin. This is a story of a group of self absorbed people who live on an island and it chronicles their interactions and relationships. We see things from a couple POVs, the main one being Miranda. This world unfolds through her teenage eyes as she attempts to understand and live in this world on the island. Then the book jumps to another young woman, Bianca, and we also have the POV of Miranda who years later is now a successful actress coming home to the island after suffering tragedy.
The mystery or twist is no mystery or twist. It’s comes on as subtlety as a flying manhole cover. It’s obvious what is going on. You are just waiting for it to actually be said. That said, I did not know how the story was going to end. I saw no way for a satisfying conclusion – but everything was resolved nicely in about two pages at the end. So… there’s that.
The time jumps and the different POVs were confusing at times and I felt it took a little too long to get to the details of the murder that acted as the turning point of the book. The motive for the murder didn’t strike me as believable. Actually, in an outline the whole murder aspect was a little ridiculous and out there. Still, as I said, I enjoyed the writing and it was escapism. I read most of it in hard copy and listened to some of it as an audiobook during my commute.
I will read more of Beatriz Williams’ books.