Jena Henry's Reviews > Montauk

Montauk by Nicola Harrison
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it was amazing

American author F. Scott Fitzgerald gave us a cast of characters living in the fictional towns of West Egg and East Egg on prosperous Long Island in the summer of 1922. The Great Gatsby, acclaimed by many as “The Great American Novel” still resonates with its themes of decadence, idealism, resistance to change, social upheaval, and excess, creating a portrait of the American Dream, circa the Roaring Twenties.

Debut author Nicola Harrison presents a fresh version of these themes and high society life on Long Island. The year is 1938 and the town is Montauk, a sleeping fishing town awakening to its potential as a playground for the wealthy. Life after the 1920’s was hard because of the Depression, but the socialites of 1938 are feeling optimistic as they begin their summer season at a new hotel. Like many other couples, Beatrice has come with her husband of five years, Harry Bordeaux, from Manhattan to Montauk. He assures her that this will be a time for them to reconnect.

But Harry, like the other husbands, leaves his wife and takes the train back Manhattan. The men will return to play in Montauk every weekend. During the week, Beatrice must make her own way in the hierarchy of women- dealing with committees, teas, galas, tennis lessons and cocktails on the beach. She makes friends with the modern and level-headed Dolly. Beatrice wants to be a good and loyal wife and support her husband, but the empty society life makes her feel detached and restless. She is drawn to the more down-to-earth working class townspeople, yet she doesn’t fit in with that world either.

As she and Harry continue to drift apart she learns about the unsavory side of him. For Beatrice the striving world of Manhattan, with its greed, and social climbing, its teaming crowded streets, contrasts with the natural beauty and freshness of Montauk and the simple qualities and strength of the townspeople.

The author has given us a haunting, evocative story propelled by deep and well-developed characters. We see Beatrice faced with the monotony of the summer and we feel her weariness as she struggles through the slowing-moving days, filled with trivial activities. We can sense the heat, and hear the ocean as Beatrice seeks to respond to her awakening desire for love. Her sunny and vibrant days getting to know a lighthouse-keeper contrast with the closed-in darkness and tension of dinners and parties with her unstable husband. A massive storm at the end of the season leads to a troubling, yet fitting conclusion. This women’s fiction, with its literary quality, is well-written and will appeal to many readers who want a meaningful book to read. Recommend

I received a digital review copy from St. Martin’s Press via Net Gallery. This is my honest review.
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
February 24, 2019 – Shelved

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