Tumbling Fates: Fortune's Rocks by Anita Shreve

"In the time it takes for her to walk from the bathhouse at the seawall of Fortune's Rocks, where she has left her boots and has discreetly pulled off her stockings, to the waterline along which the sea continually licks the pink and silver sand, she learns about desire." Thus Olympia's story unfolds on that summer in the turn of the twentieth century at a New Hampshire coast where a prominent Boston family is spending the warm season and a spirited young woman falls into a passionate, illicit affair with an older man, with cataclysmic results.

Anita Shreve draws us into a beautifully drowsy and nostalgic world of a beach cottage, a glimpse into the lives of the rich and influential in enthralling details wrought with mundane courtesies, struggle for power and sometimes intrigue. While far in the distance, a mill town flourishes with its clusters of immigrants, child labor, struggle for survival, neglect and disease. 

In the setting of these two different worlds, Olympia's sheltered and privileged life is awakened and as she explores more her surroundings and sensuality, her own passions will lead her to a tumultuous journey even she has never imagined.

Shreve's narratives breathe images and I had a lovely time imagining the scenes. Amidst the placid scenario, however, I could feel the tension brewing, a turmoil uncoiling inside Olympia and how ironic that such a picturesque setting will bear witness to the scandal that will wreck havoc on their lives. The writing was written in an old-fashioned style, portraying well the time period and the issues and mores prevalent in those days. It may disturb some, the idea of a young woman having an affair with a much older man and may question further the decisions that followed, but the stirrings of desire, of jealousy and regret are as familiar as any.

The book is filled with dramatic tension and yet remarkably there is also restraint. The author's ability to take us into the fragile threads of Olympia's emotions and senses is quite lulling and I can almost put my finger into that exact moment when everything else is about to turn awry. Almost but not quite for even as I turned the last page, it still eluded me as everything else lingered.

Title: "Fortune's Rocks"
Author: Anita Shreve
Genre: Historical, Romance
Published: 2002 Paperback
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Rating: ♨♨♨♨  (4 cups: A little bit controversial but the writing is such a splendid prose you will want to read it again if only for that. Good for a light beach reading against the backdrop of the surf pounding. A melancholic tale of love and loss, remorse, guilt and forbidden passion.)