By Anita Shreve
At the age of twenty-nine, Sydney has already been once divorced and once widowed. Trying to find her footing again, she has answered an advertisement to tutor the teenage daughter of a well-to-do couple as they spend a sultry summer in their oceanfront New Hampshire cottage.
But when the Edwards' two grown sons, Ben and Jeff, arrive at the beach house, Sydney finds herself caught up in a destructive web of old tensions and bitter divisions. As the brothers vie for her affections, the fragile existence Sydney has rebuilt is threatened.
With the subtle wit, lyrical language, and brilliant insight into real emotion that has led her to be called 'a supremely elegant anatomist of the human heart' (The Times), Shreve weaves a story about risk, family, and the supreme courage that it takes to love.
This novel is written in beautifully descriptive language, “The next morning, the fog imprisons. Vigorous wisps rush through posts in the railing, sentries surrounding the post.”
Sydney is just 29 years old but she has already been divorced one and widowed once. At a loss for how to move forward she chooses to spend the summer with a wealthy family tutoring their daughter.Mr and Mrs Edwards are spending the summer in their New Hampshire cottage and when their two grown sons come to stay Sydney’s life is about to get a whole lot more interesting.
The best way to describe Sydney at the beginning of the novel is to say she is a bit lost and unsure of what she wanted to do. “Her entire life, but for a few hours of overpaid tutoring, is disconcertingly free.”
Her first husband was an aviator and his displays fascinated her for the first year, terrified her in the second, and in the third she began to have doubts about the kind of life she and her future children would have particularly if he died. It was at this time that she decided the marriage wasn’t right.
Sydney’s second husband was her attending doctor after a car accident. Daniel died unexpectedly of a brain aneurysm and left her feeling bereft and at sea.
Sydney was a genuinely likable character and one who I was interested in knowing how her story progressed.
Mr Edwards was another favourite of mine during the book. He came across and genuine and genial. He clearly cared about his family and his relationship with Sydney in the book was a joy to read about. “In contrast to his wife, he seems a man incapable of deceit.”
Julie was also a particularly likable character and one I felt frequently sorry for every time it was mentioned she was slow and naive, someone to be protected. Mrs Edwards on the other hand was a thoroughly unlikable character. She was rude, abrupt and judgmental and interfering.
The brothers were always background characters for me simply because I found the other characters, and their little idiosyncrasies, so interesting.
I really enjoyed reading this book and didn't want it to end; it left me with a lot of unanswered questions.
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