It’s time for Literary Wives, a blogging club that looks at the depiction of wives in fiction!
As always, if you haven’t already please make sure to check out the posts by the other wives and join in the discussion if you’ve read The Summer Wives by Beatriz Williams! There are definitely spoilers ahead.
I read this book back in February. Sometimes if I’ve already read the book we are going to talk about for Literary Wives, I will read it again to refresh myself and be better prepared to get into a discussion. And sometimes, as is the case for The Summer Wives, I can’t bring myself to do that because the first reading was painful enough.
As is often the case with Williams’ books, The Summer Wives, looks at the lives of privileged families and how the interact with those around them. If I remember correctly, this book operates on a dual timeline: 1951 when Miranda Schuyler arrives on ‘the island’ as a schoolgirl reeling from the loss of her father. Her mother is about the marry Hugh Fischer, a son of one of ‘the families.’ Now Miranda is part of the society of summer families and her new stepsister, Isobel is keen to draw her in. But there are other families on the island, like the Portuguese fishermen and domestic workers who earn their living serving those who come for the season. Miranda is drawn to one Joseph Vargas, whose father keeps the lighthouse. Isobel and Joseph have a long, complicated friendship. A bad thing happens and Miranda doesn’t return to the island until the second timeline, 1969. Now she’s a famous actress, suffering from a terrible heartbreak she doesn’t want anyone to know about. The Fischer family is not what it was and Joseph Vargas has escaped from prison where he was serving time for the murder of Miranda’s stepfather.
I picked this book up because it sounded dramatic and I always enjoy books about wealthy people behaving badly. I’ve definitely been hit or miss with Beatriz Williams though so I should have been wary. This one dragged on for me and I couldn’t even care about any of the characters, or what Williams might have been saying about class and gender roles. The book dragged for me and all I could think about was when will it end?
What does the book say about being a wife?
That it sucks? I can’t recall if Miranda is married when she comes back to the island in 1969 but obviously the two wives in the book are Miranda’s mother, whose second husband dies quite soon after they marry, and Joseph’s ‘mysterious’ mother. Miranda’s mother is left to figure out what to do with everything, the money, the house, the children, when her husband is killed but it’s 1951 so women can barely do anything themselves. And Joseph’s mother is imprisoned by the decisions she made years ago (there might be a third timeline for when she’s young and so is Hugh Fischer). All in all The Summer Wives is a grim showing for women.
Honestly you should visit the other blogs because they will have done a way better job at having this discussion. Forgive me ladies!
So be sure to visit the other blogs and get in on the discussion! And come back in March when we’ll discuss I’m Fine and Neither Are You by Camille Pagan. Promise I will do a way better job that time.