Along the Infinite Sea
Two heroines – one beautiful and innocent, the other beautiful and jaded – share the stage in Williams’ cinematic novel, which wraps up her trilogy about the upper-class Schuyler sisters. Left pregnant by a prominent (and married) senator, Pepper Schuyler has travelled south to Palm Beach in 1966 to sell the vintage Mercedes roadster she’s spent the summer helping to restore. She hopes the money – an astounding $300K – will help her establish a new life away from her relatives and her ex-lover, who wants to pressure her into an abortion. To the surprise of the world-weary, cynical Pepper, the buyer takes interest in her situation. Annabelle Dommerich, a mysterious widow of European extraction, claims to have personal experience with Pepper’s predicament, and she also knows the car intimately well. “Twenty-eight years ago, I drove from my life across the German border inside that car, and I left a piece of my heart inside her,” Annabelle tells her.
Her story, which unfolds alongside Pepper’s, is the more gripping of the two. In 1935, Annabelle de Créouville, aged nineteen, spends the summer at her father’s villa along the gorgeous Côte d’Azur. There she falls in love with Stefan Silverman, a wounded Jewish man her brother asks her to help (which she does, unquestioningly). Playing out amidst the sun-dappled islands of the French Riviera, their affair is divinely romantic, but Annabelle is kept ignorant of the intrigue surrounding Stefan’s presence. We know from the beginning about Annabelle’s eventual marriage to Johann von Kleist, a baron and high-ranking Nazi, but, in tantalizing fashion, Williams keeps us guessing about the man with whom she escaped to America.
With its multiple twists, clever dialogue, and well-balanced blend of romance and thrilling adventure, the novel is smart and sexy escapist reading. It cries out for a film treatment.