19 November 2015

Review: Along the Infinite Sea by Beatriz Williams

Review of Along the Infinite Sea by Beatriz WilliamsBullet summary: Along the Infinite Sea is Beatriz William's latest book about the Schuyler sisters. In 1966, Pepper Schuyler, a twenty-something senator's aide, is facing up to her new reality: Her growing belly confirms that she's in a situation that will seriously dampen her partying, flirty ways. Meanwhile fifty-something Annabelle Dommerich, recently widowed, is coming to terms with her convoluted past. When the two women meet, they find they have a lot in common.

More about Annabelle: Although she is actually a French princess, Annabelle lived in American for much of her young life. When her mother died young, Annabelle returned to France, under the care of her father and brother. When just nineteen, she fell in love with Stefan, a handsome German Jew, but she was heartbroken when she discovered he was not only married but also a father; thus she was grateful when Johann, a German officer as well as baron, agreed to marry her and raise her unborn child as his own; she, in return, was to be a faithful and good wife to him and a devoted stepmother to his children. Annabelle is not stupid, but she's young, naive, and trusting. So the more the new baroness learned about her husband and about Stefan, the more she began to question her decisions. It all came to head two years later on Kristallnacht, when Annabelle and her cobbled-together family escaped across the German border, eventually settling in America. But which family and which man flees with her?

More about Pepper: Pepper, the middle Schuyler sister, is pregnant by a U.S. Senator from a powerful family. She is tough and resourceful, but not entirely prepared to survive all on her own. When Annabelle offers her a place of refuge, Pepper is hardly in a position to refuse. The chance meeting has the potential to change the direction of Pepper's future.

Thoughts on the construction: The novel's setting alternates between the U.S. South in 1966 and Europe in the late 1930s. Of the two stories, Annabelle's is the more engaging and emotionally strong. I particularly liked the way Williams presented the issues surrounding the rising Nazi regime from the perspective of a young girl who thought more about love and life than she did about politics. The novel shows how intelligent and caring people could be oblivious to the harsh realities until it was too late. I also liked the slight mystery of who Annabelle ended up with and why. The intrigue was nicely done. I was somewhat disappointed in Pepper's story, though the lightness and fun provided relief from the darker days of prewar Europe.

Themes: love, survival, duty, marriage, doing the right thing, politics, women's issues, parenting, sacrifices. In both time periods, the women each reject any notion of abortion, despite their unmarried status and risk of social and family rejection. Along the Infinite Sea would make a great book club choice; all the themes would provide fodder for conversation.

Things to know: Although Williams's has written about the Schuyler family before, Along the Infinite Sea works solidly as a standalone novel. The book is a November Indie Next Pick and a LibraryReads pick. It has also received a few starred reviews.

Recommendations: Beatriz William's Along the Infinite Sea would appeal to fans of historical fiction and fans of women's fiction. The romance aspects of the novel are strong, but not sappy or overwhelming. There is plenty here for those more interested in historical details than in a love story. If you're looking for fiction to read for Jewish book month, Along the Infinite Sea could work.

Audiobook: The unabridged audiobook edition (Penguin Audio; 15 hr, 43 min) was nicely read by Kathleen McInerney. I'm hardly an expert on accents, but I thought her German and French accents were believable without being cartoony or stereotypical. Her characterizations were consistent, and she gave the dialogue the proper male, female, old, and young intonations. I liked the way McInerney captured Pepper's spunk and sass and Annabelle's calm self-confidence. The good pacing and expressive performance make this a recommended audiobook.

Published by Penguin USA/ Putnam, 2015
ISBN-13: 9780399171314
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


Sarah (Sarah's Book Shelves) 11/19/15, 7:51 AM  

I loved the first two books in the Schuyler family series and am looking forward to getting to this one! It's waiting on my Kindle!

JoAnn 11/19/15, 8:18 AM  

I love William's books! Will catch up with the series before tackling this one, but I know I'm in for a treat.

bermudaonion 11/19/15, 9:02 AM  

I can't wait to start these books. I have a feeling I'll love them!

Unknown 11/20/15, 4:15 AM  

Thanks for sharing your thoughts about this book. I'm glad to know it can stand-alone. I have this book, but I haven't read the first two.

Daryl 11/20/15, 10:45 AM  

sounds intriguing ... thanks

Margot 11/23/15, 1:37 AM  

I put this book in my Audible Wish List, just waiting for someone to tell me if it's worth listening to. Thanks for your evaluation and recommendation. This sounds like a book I'd love to read.

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