Beach Read: Bittersweet

It’s the classic summer beachread of rags to riches, with a twist. Miranda Beverly-Whitemore’s haunting Bittersweet follows troubled Ivy League scholarship student Mabel Dagmar to her New England dorm room where she’s befriended by the school’s wild and very blue-blooded It Girl, Ev Winslow. It’s an unlikely friendship that leads to a summer at Ev’s family cottage estate in upstate Vermont — a place that’s very much like a Beaumaris estate in Muskoka.

“Poor-girl-gets-exposed-to-the-riches of a summer of sailing, sunning, cocktails by the shore, and late-night skinny dipping…”

Mixing the languid pretension of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby with the macabre of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, Beverly-Whitmore weaves a bittersweet tale of poor-girl-gets-exposed-to-the-riches of a summer of sailing, sunning, cocktails by the shore, and late-night skinny dipping. The bittersweet scene is idyllic on the surface, but beneath the blue of the lake there’s murk. A lot of murk. As a New York Times bestselling author, Beverly-Whitmore fills her book with Waspish characters — names like Galway, Pippa, and Birch — as well as acres of wistful, Muskoka-like prose: “When my eyes opened that first morning in the cottage they called Bittersweet, shadows of tree branches danced across the bead board ceiling in time with the glug of water in the cove below…”

“The book takes several uncomfortable Gone Girl turns…”

While the story is uneven in places and takes several uncomfortable Gone Girl turns, it’s an ideal dockside read, if only to remind one to look up and take notice of the riches of cottage country — both natural and man-inflicted. Indeed, the world of Bittersweet is a little like an imagined Beaumaris in Muskoka.

Bittersweet, Miranda Beverly-Whitemore, Broadway Books New York.

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