St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: June 4, 2019
My Rating: 🍪🍪🍪
Montauk was kind of a flat, steady read for me. I was not immediately drawn into it, and once it did capture my attention, it didn’t really build to any excitement. Set in the 1930s, it follows Beatrice Bordeaux, as she summers in the seaside village of Montauk, specifically, the Manor inhabited by wealthy patrons from Manhattan. Her husband, Harry, spends each week working in the city, taking the train back on weekends during which he drags Beatrice along to a series of social engagements and shows her little real interest.
Beatrice and Harry married young, and Beatrice’s social status and wealth skyrocketed as a result of the union. Their social status also means that it is unthought of in Harry’s family to consider divorce, despite the couple’s rapidly declining interest in one another, and their inability to have a baby. Beatrice is largely disinterested in the various committees chaired by the other society women, and quickly befriends Elizabeth, who tends to the laundry of the Manor visitors. Although hesitant at first, Elizabeth warms up to Beatrice and welcomes her as a friend, introducing Beatrice to her family, as well as to Thomas, who tends the local lighthouse.
Beatrice feels an immediate spark with Thomas and is inexplicably drawn to him. When he suffers a fall which results in injuries bad enough to prevent him from working, she takes it upon herself to tend to him and help ensure he can do his job. Their romance blooms from there, especially once Beatrice discovers that Harry has been having affairs of his own. Beatrice’s unconventional friend Dolly, encourages her infidelity, but the extent of Beatrice’s feelings for Thomas remains a secret.
Harrison did a remarkable job of creating realistic and vastly varied characters. From Dolly, who steps outside the role of what’s expected of a woman at the time, running her own business and encouraging sexual promiscuity, to the stuck-up, gossipy society women, everyone was distinct and interesting. The actual plot wasn’t really riveting for me. It was pleasant and easy to read, but the various twists seemed unnecessary and didn’t add anything to the story. The continued discussion of the death of Beatrice’s brother at a young age seemed like an unnecessary attempt to add dimension to her character. It was woven throughout the whole story, but even after having finished the story, I can’t understand why it was made into such a big part of the narrative.
The ending of this book left me baffled. After such a (relatively) calm read, I have no idea why a sudden catastrophic and destructive storm was needed to wrap it up. It seemed like a sort of clichéd way to take care of all the loose ends without actually addressing underlying issues.