My Amazon review - I just reread this book for the first time since it was published in 1992. In the decade since I first devoured this 600+ page novel in one weekend I have become a wife, a daughter-in-law and a mother, so those relationships in this story now have an even deeper meaning to me. I don't think I can express strongly enough how thoroughly I was pulled into this tale, caught up in the weave of Siddons masterful storytelling and reluctant to extract myself at the end. I cried for these characters, laughed with them, hated some of them as passionately as I loved others, and finally thanked God that I am not, and never will be, anything like them. Siddons has created a world that I fervently hope has no equal in reality, as the thought of the extremes encountered in good and evil in this tale coexisting in one place, in one lifetime, is almost too much to bear. This is an enchanting story that may put you through the wringer, but it is so very worth it.
If it's gothic, Siddons (Outer Banks, King's Oak, etc.) can do it, or so it would appear in this latest novel destined for commercial success. In it, she takes her gifts for melodrama and tangling family trees up north, to a summer colony for Boston Brahmins on the coast of Maine, called simply ``Retreat.'' But Siddons's heroine is a southerner, and on her she demonstrates one of her best tricks--her deep intimacy with her leading ladies, which the author shares with her readers from the get-go. Anyway, it isn't easy for sweet young Maude Gascoigne, from a moldering plantation near Charleston, to fit in when her new husband, sterling-silver Peter Chambliss (of a Boston banking family, Princeton, and Retreat), takes her to the summer place. For the first few decades Maude battles it out with her insufferable, hypercritical mother-in-law, the drunken and lecherous husband of her best friend, Amy Potter, and even Peter himself--a depressive, hermetic man who just sails away whenever things get rough. Gradually, though, little Maudie gets some starch and learns to endure almost anything, including: the death of her mother-in-law (``my beloved enemy''); Peter's weird coldness to his own two children, which ultimately sends the younger, Happy, to a sanitarium; the death of a grandson; the return of a bad seed, Elizabeth, Amy Potter's girl, who does her best to break up Maude's son's marriage; and whispers that float on the salt spray every summer about how much Elizabeth looks like Peter. Well, it turns out that Elizabeth's connection to Peter is very much an issue--but we're not telling why. Long-suffering Maude may not be everyone's cup of tea, but this time Siddons gets the melodrama balance just right and shows she's as much at home in Maine as she was in Georgia. Fans will be doing cartwheels, and others will queue up.
Another one of Anne Rivers Siddons wonderful, complicated, emotional stories. I could not put it down.
There are beach reads and then there are great beach reads. This one is a great beach read. Not necessarily great literature but a very good story.