Cristina Reads Too Much: Montauk by Nicola Harrison


Getting around to reading a book (other than a textbook) can be tough in college, we know this.  When you’re cramming in between classes, Her Campus Lasell’s got you covered.  

Introducing Cristina Reads Too Much, a weekly segment where we break down and spill the tea about the best books RN and give our honest reviews and ratings. 

The Rundown:

Set in 1938, Nicola Harrison’s debut novel follows twenty-something Beatrice “Bea” Bordeaux as she comes into her own over the course of a summer spent in Montauk, Long Island (a fishing village turned beach town).  Feeling as though she and her husband, Harry, have hit a dead end in their marriage, Bea hopes that summering on Long Island will help reignite the passion between them. Instead, she finds herself abandoned by Harry, who is more concerned with furthering his investment in Montauk and pursuing other interests in New York City--meaning that Bea will have to spend the next 12 weeks sequestered with society wives at the seaside Montauk Manor hotel.  Bea, a college-educated woman with humble country-girl origins, has never felt comfortable around these women who devote their days to leisure activities and philanthropy, delegating their other duties to housekeepers and nannies. Feeling like a misfit but desperate for human connection, Bea strikes up a friendship with the Manor’s laundress, Elizabeth. Elizabeth takes Bea under her wing, showing her around Montauk and allowing Bea to assist her with the laundry.  Bea finds solace in Montauk’s natural beauty and community spirit, as well as the glimpses she receives into Elizabeth’s work ethic and family life, which call back memories of the driven woman she once was. It is through Elizabeth that Bea meets the lighthouse keeper Thomas Brown. Stoic, brutally honest, and complex, Thomas is nothing like her husband, and Bea becomes instantly intrigued by him. When Thomas sustains a leg injury in a freak accident, Bea jumps at the opportunity to help him in operating the lighthouse.  Their proximity quickly escalates into emotional intimacy, leading them both to open up about their haunting pasts and uncertain futures. As she finds herself falling for Thomas despite being a married woman, Bea realizes that one must embrace all moments of happiness, no matter how small, even when everything else seems hopeless. 

My thoughts:

Powerfully moving and beautifully tragic, Montauk is a stunning debut that is at once a romance and a story of self-rediscovery.  Bea Bordeaux is a flawed character with an enigmatic backstory, but she’s still likeable and easy to root for.  This book made me feel a whole range of emotions, from anger to sadness to frustration to happiness. My only critique is that the story becomes a little predictable at times, especially in the last 70 or so pages--I actually correctly guessed the ending before it happened.  Regardless, Montauk is a charming, sweeping historical drama that will make you smile and cry.  Romance readers and historical fiction fans will want to pick up this novel. 

My rating:

4.5 out of 5 stars

Favorite quote: 

“Eventually you must return to who you are, who you were born to be.  You can stray from it, try on other roles, other personalities, other beliefs, other lives, but eventually it will catch up with you and you will have to return to the only person you can be”