quin·tes·sen·tial, kwintəˈsenchəl / adjective: representing the most perfect or typical example of a quality or class.
To me, The Secret Life of Violet Grant is quintessential beach reading. It’s light, but not fluffy. It’s absorbing, but with the joy of escapism. It’s quite a lot of fun, although it’s not without issues. In the 1960’s Vivian Schuyler dreams of being a reporter – against her wealthy family’s better advice – but her current job is less than glamorous – at the very least it’s at a magazine, even if she’s only perfected the coffee and fact checking. After she receives a mysterious package in the mail and meets the man she very well may want to spend the rest of her life with, her life gets off track. She soon finds out that the package was addressed to one mysterious aunt she never knew she had. As she begins to explore her family’s past, she discovers a scandalous history that may not be quite as dead as it seems. Alternating between Violet’s life in 1914 and Vivian’s life in 1964, The Secret Life of Violet Grant will intersect the past with the future. In lieu of a typical review, I want to list the top five reasons to read Beatriz William’ latest novel.
01. Violet’s life, set in 1914, is groundbreaking. A recent college graduate, she leaves her wealthy family in America to study to be an atomic physicist – scandalous at the time. I love the idea of an early female scientist.
02. Despite the women being very different, the parallels between the two are immediately evident. Both are striving to become more than what is expected for women of their time. Vivian’s headstrong and self-assured while Violet is studious and overly serious.
03. It manages to have romance without being “romance”. I appreciate that more than you know.
04. There’s banter, cocktails, international travel, love stories, mystery, and intrigue. It won’t be winning any literary awards, but it will keep you entertained.
05. Added bonus: If you liked A Hundred Summers, you’ll be excited to know that the Greenwalds make an appearance.
If you’re looking for an enthralling beach read, this is your book. Pair this one with a havarti, basil, and tomato grilled cheese (as found on Oh Sweet Basil).
Do you like quintessential beach reads? They are not my usual fare, but Beatriz Williams’ novel is wonderfully written, despite a few flaws, and worth a chance. 3/5.