Along the Infinite Sea by Beatriz Williams
Published by Putnam ISBN 9780399171314
Hardcover, $26.95, 464 pages
A few months ago, I read three of Beatriz Williams' novels revolving around the Schuyler family- One Hundred Summers, The Secret Life of Violet Grant and Tiny Little Thing. All of the Schuyler women are intriguing, but I found myself drawn to Pepper, who had a prominent role in Tiny Little Thing.
I hoped that the next book would feature Pepper, and lo and behold, we get Pepper's story in Williams' newest novel, Along the Infinite Sea. The novel picks up a little while after Tiny Little Thing, in 1966 Palm Beach, Florida where Pepper is selling the special vintage Mercedes that she, her sister and her sister's lover found in a shed in Cape Cod and restored.
The buyer is a woman named Annabelle Dommerich who has a connection to that car- she and her husband escaped the Nazis in it in 1938. Annabelle takes the pregnant Pepper under her wing and into her palatial home to hide out from the baby's father, a connected and married US Senator from a prominent family.
When Annabelle mysteriously disappears, her son Florian and Pepper go looking for her. We get alternating stories, Annabelle's from 1937 and Pepper's from 1966. While I love Pepper and her snappy talk and tough-gal attitude, it's Annabelle's story that truly fascinates.
When Annabelle is 17-years-old, she falls madly in love with Stefan, a Jewish man, after nursing him back to health after an encounter with the Nazis. They spend a glorious time together, and when Stefan disappears, Annabelle finds herself in trouble.
She ends up married to Johann, a general in the German government during the rise of the the Nazi party. Annabelle and Stefan cross paths at various times over the next few years, and she is torn between her love and desire for Stefan and her duty to Johann, who took her in and gave her a home and a life.
There is so much in Along the Infinite Sea to love. There's a little bit of the Sound of Music (Nazis and a daring escape attempt- what a scene!), a little bit of Les Miserables (the Valjean/Javert relationship) and Williams rolls these all into her can't-stop-reading-it novel. The relationship between Annabelle and Pepper is terrifically done, they are such intriguing and strong women.
Nick Greenwald and Budgie Byrne from One Hundred Summers make a few appearances, which is a lovely touch to readers of the Schuyler women books, and Williams made a pretty cool connection between Annabelle and Pepper and the mysterious car.
You don't need to have read any of the previous books to understand and appreciate Along the Infinite Sea, it stands alone on its own quite well. But if you are a fan of the Schuyler women, you will fall in love with this one. I highly recommend it.
My review of the other Schuyler family novels is here.
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