Now this is a novel that I can wholeheartedly recommend. I read it in the space of a week, which by my current standards is very quick! If life and the need for sleep hadn’t got in the way I could easily have read it in one sitting. In other words, I was hooked!
It is hard when reading the novel to believe that it is Liza Klaussmann’s debut. Her writing style is exquisite and the novel oozes sophistication. The way in which the author is able to describe the characters, and set the scene, with such vividity makes this a novel one can get lost in.
Transported to post-Second World War New England we are introduced to the novel’s main female characters; Nick and Helena. The two cousins share their visions of what their futures will hold. Nick excitedly awaits the return of her husband, Hughes, from the navy. She is about to start a new life with him in the glamour of Hollywood. They dream of the Summers they will spend together at the family mansion in Martha’s Vineyard.
Unfortunately reality for Nick and Helena is somewhat removed from what their earlier dreams had promised. Nick’s life is far from glamorous as her life becomes a monotony of housework and preparing yet another meal consisting of shrimp. Stuck in a passionless marriage to a man who, despite everything, she loves with all of her heart, Nick begins to feel suffocated by her housewife existence. Helena is married to Avery, a man who is sadly in love with someone else. We read about Helena’s decline into mental illness and addiction with sadness. She is such a tragic character.
It is a Summer spent at the family mansion where the main subject of the novel comes to the fore. We are now introduced to Nick and Hughes’ daughter Daisy, and Helena and Avery’s son Ed. It becomes clear that Daisy and Ed are very different children. Daisy is a good, pure child who dotes on her father, while viewing her mother with some curiosity. Ed is presented as a complex child with dark ideas about the world. When reading about the peculiarities of Ed’s home life, it is perhaps unsurprising that he is not an ‘ordinary’ boy. It is the discovery Ed and Daisy make during their Summer holiday that changes everything.
This novel challenges the view of the pristine 1950s housewife’s world. It shows us how deadly boredom can be when mixed with betrayal and the longing for something more. We learn that no matter how much we want something to be true, we cannot always escape the reality of our situation; sometimes the ones we love just don’t love us in the way we want them to. This novel will shock and delight you in equal measure as more about each character is revealed. It is a wonderful book and I cannot wait to read Liza Klaussmann’s second novel, “Villa America”.