Summer of ’69
Set on the islands of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard off the coast of Massachusetts, this debut historical novel from “summer read” veteran Hilderbrand is a family saga that captures a glimpse of the 20th century’s most tumultuous decade. Kate, her four children, and extended family members each have their own worries: Blair is pregnant with twins while her absent husband is working on the Apollo 11 mission; Kirby is searching for herself—stuck between the political and social issues of the day and her strait-laced, upper-class background; Tiger, of his own volition, is fighting in Vietnam while his family frets over his safety; Jessie is coming of age during a summer when it seems everything is going wrong; Kate is harboring a secret that has haunted her for years and could tear the family apart.
“The times they are a-changing,” is an apt summation of the events of this story. Character dynamics and place details dominate the narrative. It touches on racial issues, feminism, hippie/commune lifestyles, anti-Semitism, abuse, suicide, revolution, politics, and war—but only through the limited views of a handful of privileged characters. As such, it is difficult to relate to any of the various protagonists and has a forced agenda feel at times. As a beach read, it certainly delivers. It is nicely paced and includes an impressive description of 1960s upper-class island lifestyles. It works well as a getaway book for the average reader—dramatic and engaging. Those looking for more depth, particularly serious historical fiction enthusiasts, may find it lacking a multi-layered, engrossing element many period novels offer.