Review: The Summer Wives by Beatriz Williams

Title: The Summer Wives by Beatriz Williams
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: Historical, Fiction
Length: 384 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss


New York Times bestselling author Beatriz Williams brings us the blockbuster novel of the season—an electrifying postwar fable of love, class, power, and redemption set among the inhabitants of an island off the New England coast . . .

In the summer of 1951, Miranda Schuyler arrives on elite, secretive Winthrop Island as a schoolgirl from the margins of high society, still reeling from the loss of her father in the Second World War. When her beautiful mother marries Hugh Fisher, whose summer house on Winthrop overlooks the famous lighthouse, Miranda’s catapulted into a heady new world of pedigrees and cocktails, status and swimming pools. Isobel Fisher, Miranda’s new stepsister—all long legs and world-weary bravado, engaged to a wealthy Island scion—is eager to draw Miranda into the arcane customs of Winthrop society.

But beneath the island’s patrician surface, there are really two clans: the summer families with their steadfast ways and quiet obsessions, and the working class of Portuguese fishermen and domestic workers who earn their living on the water and in the laundries of the summer houses. Uneasy among Isobel’s privileged friends, Miranda finds herself drawn to Joseph Vargas, whose father keeps the lighthouse with his mysterious wife. In summer, Joseph helps his father in the lobster boats, but in the autumn he returns to Brown University, where he’s determined to make something of himself. Since childhood, Joseph’s enjoyed an intense, complex friendship with Isobel Fisher, and as the summer winds to its end, Miranda’s caught in a catastrophe that will shatter Winthrop’s hard-won tranquility and banish Miranda from the island for nearly two decades.

Now, in the landmark summer of 1969, Miranda returns at last, as a renowned Shakespearean actress hiding a terrible heartbreak. On its surface, the Island remains the same—determined to keep the outside world from its shores, fiercely loyal to those who belong. But the formerly powerful Fisher family is a shadow of itself, and Joseph Vargas has recently escaped the prison where he was incarcerated for the murder of Miranda’s stepfather eighteen years earlier. What’s more, Miranda herself is no longer a naïve teenager, and she begins a fierce, inexorable quest for justice for the man she once loved . . . even if it means uncovering every last one of the secrets that bind together the families of Winthrop Island.


The Summer Wives by Beatriz Williams is an intriguing historical novel that takes place during three distinct time periods.

In the early 1930s, local islander Bianca Medeiro is an orphan who lives with her aunt and uncle. While working in the family store, she becomes quite smitten with one of Winthrop Island wealthy summer visitors. Bianca’s story arc is the slow-moving and initially confusing, but her starry-eyed crush is the foundation for events that occur in the future.

In 1951, Miranda Schuyler arrives on Winthrop Island for her mother’s nuptials to Hugh Fisher. She is welcomed by her new step-sister, Isobel, who, despite her engagement to wealthy Clay Monk, is a bit rebellious and adventuresome. During the months after their parents’ wedding, Miranda acts as a go-between for messages Isobel exchanges with Joseph Vargas. Joseph’s father is the lighthouse keeper who also supplements the family’s income as a lobsterman. Despite her certainty that Isobel and Joseph’s relationship might run deeper than friendship,  Miranda is rather besotted by the handsome young man. By summer’s end, tragedy strikes and Miranda leaves Winthrop Island under a scandal-ridden cloud.

In 1969, Miranda is a popular actress whose return to Winthrop Island is viewed with suspicion and dislike due to her role in the events of 1951. Her mother and Isobel live at the Fisher family estate which they have turned into an artist’s colony due to their financial straits. Miranda’s arrival on the island occurs during a rather tumultuous time that is linked to the events that precipitated her departure eighteen years prior. Miranda’s homecoming stirs up old resentments but will it ultimately prove to be healing when secrets from the past are revealed?

Despite a bit of a slow start, The Summer Wives is an engrossing novel that is rather enthralling. The characters are multi-dimensional,  well-developed and easy to like. The plot is interesting but the significance of Bianca’s role does not become clear until the novel’s end. Winthrop Island is an idyllic setting and  Beatriz Williams brings the location and the community vibrantly to life. I greatly enjoyed and highly recommend this enigmatic novel.


Filed under Beatriz Williams, Fiction, Historical, Rated B, Review, The Summer Wives, William Morrow

2 Responses to Review: The Summer Wives by Beatriz Williams

  1. This title caught my eye elsewhere. Glad to hear more detail about it.