Audiobook Review: A Hundred Summers

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Loved it! It’s the perfect summer read! I can see this one being enjoyed on those hot steamy beaches this summer.  Is it “women’s contemporary” (seems to be the nouveau word for chick-lit) – with a heavy hit of romance? Well, yes, but I think what enhanced this one was the narration by Kathleen McInerney. It made it all so good and one where you wanted to keep driving around to continue listening to Lily’s story!  Thank you so very much to Audiobook Jukebox and Penguin Audio for granting us the advanced copy of this audiobook.

And while I may have been encouraged to drink Whiskey Sours when reading Tigers in Red Weather last summer, A Hundred Summers is tempting me to mail off a Surgeon General’s warning about cigarette smoking to the cast and characters! WOW, is there ever a lot of smoking going on in here! (I’m a little surprised to not see the packs next to the two on the cover to your left, or that these two women don’t have them resting easily between their fingers. :-) )

The storyline flips back and forth between 1931 (New York) and 1938 (Seaview, Rhode Island). 1931 is the time period when Lily Dane is at college with her glamorous, refined and sophisticated socialite friend Budgie. Lily and Budgie have been friends since childhood and have spent every summer together at their family’s vacation homes at Seaview on Rhode Island. Lily is definitely the practical, less refined friend, with her flyaway curls and unsophisticated or naive mannerisms. Lily is the “good girl”, the “strong and steady girl” and definitely not “that kind of girl.”

A Hundred Summers opens in the 1931 timeframe and Budgie is quickly racing her and Lily to Dartmouth to watch her latest boyfriend Graham Pendleton, the golden haired, blue-eyed Adonis, play football. But Lily quickly only has eyes for the tall, dark, broad and extremely handsome quarterback. Budgie is quick to wrinkle her nose at this outcome, as Nick Greenwald is Jewish. Budgie laughingly tells Lily to get her kicks, sure, but do not ever bring this boy home to your parents!

However, Nick and Lily fall crazy and madly in love. Throughout this time, Nick is always ever crticial of Budgie and warns Lily often that she is nothing like her, and please don’t ever become a person like Budgie. Lily’s introduction to Nick to the Dane household unfortunately is also met with extreme heartbreak. Her father orders Lily to never speak to this Greenwald boy ever again. Yet, they disobey and attempt to run off to elope….

Williams alternates the chapters between 1931 New York and 1938 Seaview. The chapters that occur at Seaview are current day when it’s 1938. Here, Lily is again the narrator of her story and we find her summering again like she has every summer at the family cottage on Seaview. She has with her a 6 year old girl affectionately called Kiki. Kiki refers to Lily as her sister and everyone treats that with a wink, wink, nudge, nudge with the common thought being what Kiki’s true parentage is. The truth regarding Kiki’s paternity is slowly unveiled and is not the common story people think it is.

The shocking and gossipy feature of this year’s Seaview community is that Budgie is returning to her family’s summer retreat, after many, many neglect filled summers. The kicker is that she is returning as Mrs. Nickleson (Budgie) Greenwald. Budgie and Lily have not spoken in many years and Lily has only read of the marriage to Nick Greenwald in the society pages. She is filled with grief and the community of Seaview is disgusted only with the news that Budgie is bringing a Jew to the resort. Or is that the true and real reason as it is the one that Lily believes it to be.

So, the reader does not know exactly how these events have transpired in the years between 1931 and 1938, instead we are treated (yes, definitely treated, as the way the story unfolds keeps you glued in place) to alternating chapters that take us back to 1931 to the passionate and love-struck couple Lily and Nick. Their romance unfolds and is filled with great and undying love for one another. The reader has NO idea or is given any indication during this time as to what happens between Nick and Lily, or why Budgie has now married him and Lily remains alone. It all slowly reveals itself in the end.

There are a few storylines to follow here. The other is that all does not seem to be well with Budgie. She is very adept at trying to hide what is going on behind closed doors. She’s putting on a grand affair of things. Why has she returned to Seaview after all these years of being away? Is it true that she has married a Greenwald because her family has been left penniless? WHY is she married to Nick Greenwald? How the heck did that happen? We are seriously treated to a slow and steady reveal.

Was it going to end in a somewhat predictable manner? Or will you be able to surmise the outcome? Perhaps, but no matter – it’s an excellent story all along the way. You may guess, but seriously, the joy of this story is definitely in the way Ms. Williams has taken her time to slowly and chronologically reveal it all. Just loved every moment of it! It all comes to a great end with gales of wind, rain and hurricane force of shattering truths.

The narration of this audio is done by Kathleen McInerney. WONDERFUL narration!  Now, this is a female narrator that knows how to speak male voices! Splendid! What a treat for the ears! What a treat as well when she would do the snobby, old money voice of Mrs. Hubert of Seaview and of dear old Aunt Julie.  She perfectly rendered the elitist and super-perfect girl voice of Budgie, the sweet and innocent voice of Lily and listening to Nick’s voice as well as any other male voice was just wonderful. Absolutely not one irritating or forced male sound in range. Awesome.

For all of that, I could forgive a few of the things that nibbled at my patience a touch:

  1. the squeaky child voice of Kiki;
  2. the excessive amount of smoking going on!;
  3. all the descriptive details of sex;
  4. the excessive fascination with breasts. Honestly. We hear often of Budgie’s breasts, how small, how plump they become and how brown or pink the nipples are (Budgie’s breasts are described often as apricot-like). But more than anything it is the exposing, kissing, licking and suckling of Lily’s breasts. Girl! She didn’t keep those under wraps for anyone! :-)

However, it was definitely a winner of an audiobook and one where I wanted to just keep driving around in circles to continue listening. It comes to a very satisfying finish and again, I can totally see this one being devoured by readers on the beach this summer. 4 stars for a wonderful narration of a great story.