**Thank you to NetGalley and St.Martin’s Press for my complimentary advanced copy of ‘Montauk’ in exchange for my honest review.’
Sweeping, intoxicating, demanding. All three of these adjectives could be used to describe the reading experience I had with this book. Drawn to each chapter, pulled in by every word, and utterly captivated by both plot and characters; I genuinely cannot rave about Montauk by Nicola Harrison enough. This book has all the elements of the perfect summer read, the story itself sticking to you like glue long after you’ve finished reading your copy. An emotional roller coaster, Harrison taps into the age old question: What do you do when you’ve had enough?
‘Montauk’ pushes many envelopes and, as a woman, I particularly felt connected to the plot and subplot because Harrison is reminding us of all the limitations placed on women by a society driven by patriarchy. Set in the late 1930s, right on the edge of the humanity hurtling into the chaos and despair that was World War II, we are introduced to a world of elitism. Society wives vacationing and taking their summers in the up and coming town of Montauk while their husbands seemingly toil away in the city and make investment moves that they believe will shape the future.
Through the main character, however, we are bluntly reminded that the edges of elitism are undeniably soiled. Desperate to fill the endless hours of their days, the high end women of this novel take pleasure in tearing down and belittling the locals who, not only are the heart of Montauk, but also are responsible for ensuring that all is peachy for the rich. Meanwhile, while the wives tan by the pool and gossip at society functions, their husbands are in the city paying no mind to respecting their marriages. It doesn’t matter, though, whether or not these society women are, deep down, suffering from the reality of their circumstances. Life must continue on and an image must be maintained- infidelity can surely be fixed with a swipe of lipstick and a shiny pair of pumps. Not so, however, for Beatrice.
On a daily basis, Beatrice is torn between the life she now has and the life that could have been. Aspirations to do something more intellectual with her life, Beatrice had been studying literature at Vassar when her brother died and the trajectory of her life changed indefinitely. Dropping out of school to deal with her grief, she meets Harry, marries him, and suddenly her life becomes a whirlwind of events in the city and summering in Newport or the Hamptons. She’d come to accept her fate, even as she struggles to fit into the role of society wife when she doesn’t even have children to care for.
In Montauk, Beatrice is presented with the greatest gift of all. The gift of a second chance. The gift of realizing that she’s had enough. She no longer wants to be the perfect wife in a loveless marriage with an empty womb. Beatrice wants to live, even if it means making her life messy. ‘Montauk’ by Nicola Harrison is Beatrice’s journey on the path of coming to terms with herself when enough is enough. I dare you to not be moved by this emotionally charged story and I challenge you to not reflect on your own life and decisions as you effortlessly root for Beatrice to find a way to belong only to herself.