Lines to Love: A Hundred Summers Edition


Happy First Day of Summer!

In last week's post, I gave a synopsis of Beatriz Williams’ A Hundred Summers so you, dear readers, would have an inkling as to why I love it so much. Well, I also happened to squander the hours necessary to re-read the book in the last week and have come up with a list of lines that I absolutely love. Today’s post is all about these lines. Hopefully they evoke images of summer and beaches and the susurration of sea and sand (and, make you smile, or as is the case with some, curious as to what precisely is going on…). 



Let’s open with just a small slice of foreshadowing to get the ball rolling before we venture into the sultry summer of 1938:

In 1931, two years after the stock crash, we are still merry. Panic happens, companies fail, but it’s only a bump in the road, a temporary thing. The great engine coughs, it sputters, but it doesn’t die. It will start roaring again soon. In 1931, we have no idea at all what lies ahead.

Tallulah Bankhead's Darling drawl... Just as I imagine Aunt Julie.

Flash forward to Seaview, Rhode Island, on Memorial Day, when Aunt Julie utters (imagine Tallulah Bankhead’s languid drawl):

“Summer starts when I say it starts, darling. Oh, that’s lovely.” She inhaled to the limit of her lungs, closed her eyes, and let the smoke slide from her lips in a thin and endless ribbon.

Then there are the lazy day descriptions so appropriate for summertime (you know, when the livin’ is easy):

A few lacy clouds streaked across, tinged with gold, the same way they had when we were children, lying on this precise patch of sand.
It was hot again today, hot and humid, as it had been all summer long. This afternoon there would be thunderstorms, as there had been yesterday. The weight of the air pressed on my shoulders, making every movement slow, every action languid.

And we cannot forget the men. If you thought the weather was the only smoldering thing Williams discusses, you’re in for a treat. 

There’s Graham Pendleton heating up the sand:

All the men were in their bathing suits, without shirts, and Graham shown among them like a golden Adonis, tanned from the sun, muscles etched in picture-book symmetry, jaw squared and blue eyes flashing. His cheekbones rose elegantly above the rest of humanity.

(I have to admit, I grin every time I read that last bit.)

Then, of course, there’s Nicholson Greenwald whose eyes can light up the beach like that celestial eye of heaven:

His eyes are bright and well fed. I love their color, all warm and caramelized, almost molten, hints of green streaking around the brown. I’m just happy, he said earlier, and he looks it.

There’s this one line that has nothing to do with summer, but I just happen to love how accurately it describes Lily Dane, and, in a way, nails why she’s so fabulous. I love genuine people who are serious about the things that matter in life:                  

Everything looks serious from your end, Lily. It’s part of your charm.

Williams does a great job of heating up the emotions along with the weather.

The air around us sat motionless, turgid with July warmth.
He doesn’t reply, and I look up to find his face leaning into mine, blurry and intent, scalding me with intimacy.
The surf was high, crashing in ungentle rollers into the beach below us. When I set my drink on the railing and braced my hands against the weathered wood, the salt spray stung like needles against my bare arms and neck.

And while the weather might be gearing up with impending fury, Lily Dane reaches her point of no return, where enough, dear readers, is simply enough:

It does matter! Everyone’s been hiding everything from me all these years, as if I were a child, as if I were too fragile to be told the truth! Me! When I’ve held everything and everybody together with my bare hands!

After this explosive moment, Lily Dane heads back to Seaview where mayhem quickly ensues:

I’d ridden waves before, had allowed my body to glide along the surface of the water through peak and trough. The trick was not to fight it. The water was boss the ocean had command. You ride it as you would a runaway horse, just staying aboard and praying it wouldn’t take you too far.

Whatever was that last quote about, you may ask? Well, ever hear the proverb: Red sky at night, sailor’s delight; red sky in morning, sailor take warning? Keep that in mind, for this next line, which is quite the harbinger:

Dawn crept through the windows, red with promise, illuminating the green glints in his eyes.

Beatriz Williams is excellent at foreshadowing. She starts at the beginning, dropping little clues like breadcrumbs and keeps us on the path of suspense throughout the whole of the novel. But, as Romeo whined, Oh, wilt thou leave me so unsatisfied? No, dear readers, I would never be so cruel. I’ll finish with a line that I simply love:

I kiss him back, because kisses are so much easier than words, and because he’s so large and overwhelming with his formal tailcoat and his bandit’s mask, and in the tumult of my young mind and my young body that’s all I want: To be overwhelmed.

Well, dear readers, I hope you enjoyed that little foray into A Hundred Summers. Hopefully it’s whetted your appetite to rent/buy the book for your summer reading. It’s tragic. It’s tender. And, when it comes to books I read for pleasure, it’s in possession of one of my favorite things: a happy ending. 

What books evoke summer to you? Do they take place on the beach? Or, are they adventurous tales? Epics? Biographies? When it comes to reading, what screams summer to you?