Enchanted August by Brenda Bowen
Pub. Date: June 2, 2015
Source: e-ARC via publisher (Thank you, Pamela Dorman Books!!)
Summary: On a dreary spring day in Brooklyn, Lottie Wilkinson and Rose Arbuthnot spot an ad on their children’s preschool bulletin board:
Little Lost Island, Maine.
Old, pretty cottage to rent on a small island.
Springwater, blueberries, sea glass.
Neither can afford it, but they are smitten—Lottie could use a break from her overbearing husband and Rose from her relentless twins. On impulse, they decide to take the place and attract two others to share the steep rent: Caroline Dester, an indie movie star who’s getting over a very public humiliation, and elderly Beverly Fisher, who’s recovering from heartbreaking loss. If it’s not a perfect quartet, surely it will be fine for a month in the country.
When they arrive on the island, they are transformed by the salt air; the breathtaking views; the long, lazy days; and the happy routine of lobster, corn, and cocktails on the wraparound porch. By the time of the late-August blue moon, real life and its complications have finally fallen far, far away. For on this idyllic island they gradually begin to open up: to one another and to the possibilities of lives quite different from the ones they’ve been leading. Change can’t be that hard, can it?
Genre: Contemporary, Retelling
Recommended for: Fans of The Enchanted April, BEACH READERS!
Last week I reviewed Elizabeth von Arnim’s 1922 classic The Enchanted April, an absolutely charming and delightfully funny novel about four women – total strangers – who end up renting a medieval castle on the Mediterranean coast for a month. I truly cannot say enough about it and highly recommend it to anyone who has yet to read it!
So when I was pitched this modern retelling I wasted no time in accepting. In this updated version, Enchanted August focuses on two New York mothers, fed up with the ridiculousness of their children’s elite preschools. Lottie and Rose come across an ad posted on the school’s bulletin board advertising a summer cottage in Maine. Despite its staggeringly high fee, the two are over the moon and quickly begin a search for two more to join them: Caroline Dester was a star well on her way to winning an Oscar until a very public (this ain’t the 1920s anymore – we’re living in the age of Youtube!) humiliation sent her abandoning Hollywood for a more secluded life and Beverly Fisher, still quietly grieving the death of a great love. When August rolls around and the four renters head for Maine, they quickly discover there’s more to their little group than they could have ever imagined.
Enchanted August certainly lives up to its ‘modern retelling’ angle – there are entire conversations quoted verbatim here that were from The Enchanted April! There were a few moments when I felt a little iffy about that, obviously there would be similarities, but here the original story was lifted in its entirety and transplanted to present day Maine. Instead of a castle, it’s a giant cottage. Instead of a carriage bringing them to their destination, it’s a ferry. Rather than send letters home to their families, they shoot off texts and e-mails when the spotty wi-fi cooperates. While I wasn’t entirely comfortable with such minor tweaking, I ultimately enjoyed this one and it makes for a perfect beach read. There’s enough substance to sink your teeth into without being overwhelmed – Enchanted August is equally as enchanting as its predecessor with a fun, modern twist and a delightful surprise I didn’t see coming!
Just as in The Enchanted April (and I feel bad for constantly bringing up the original, but I suppose it’s a given with any retelling to call back to the source material) the characters here were great and felt real. Or, rather, as real to me as too-wealthy Manhattanites can be! Brenda Bowen introduced a new cast of characters with Little Lost Island’s town and their big month-end lobster bash had me drooling all over myself!
The book club kit (okay, seriously, can we pause for a minute and talk about HOW INSANELY AMAZING this is?!?) is downright brilliant, complete with a fun quiz – I’m Rose! – and mouthwatering recipes (hello, cocktail!) There’s even a FANTASTIC playlist that I was so impressed with I ended up looking like a complete fool by gushing over it to the publicist. Seriously though: The Band (my all-time favorite group,) Van Morrison, Alabama Shakes, Sam Cooke, Arcade Fire.
Also, any author who quotes Neil Gaiman in an interview and says her ideal houseguests would include Bobby Flay, Wodehouse, and Richard Burton is a-okay in my book!