“Along the Infinite Sea” by Beatriz Williams is a riveting historical novel. Within the background of early Nazi Germany the book delves into how someone’s fame, fortune, and forbidden passion can influence relationships. The story alternates between the late 1930s and mid 1960s, with the flashback narration revealing a mystery of regret and intrigue. The author manages to keep readers guessing until the very end of the book as to what actually happens.
Two women alternated narrating the story, Pepper in the 1960s and Annabelle in the 1930s. The plot of this novel begins as Pepper Schuyler is selling a restored Mercedes she found in her sister Tiny’s in-laws Cape Cod shed. She decides to sell this Roadster to fund her impending new life as a single mother-to-be. The buyer turns out to be the car’s original owner, Annabelle, who used it to escape Nazi Germany with her lover, husband, and children. Because she sees a lot of herself in Pepper, Annabelle takes her under her wing, helping her survive. Both are strong beautiful women whose lives are full of secrets.
Williams commented to blackfive.net she found the idea for the car in “an article I came across a few years ago about a vintage automobile, a rare 1936 Mercedes 540K Special Roadster. It had been discovered in a shed at an inn. A German baroness had driven this extraordinary car around Europe before WWII began. She had various affairs including one with a Jewish gentleman. She eventually fled to America with her Mercedes. After being fully restored the car was sold at auction in 2012 for nearly $12 million. I decided to make up a story about the car and the third Schuyler sister, Pepper. This 1936 German car was the perfect springboard into the world of the early Nazis. Remember the female protagonist Annabelle is the grand daughter of a Hardcastle so she spent a lot of time at the Cape Cod summer cottage, where the car was hidden. Since it was so distinctive the family wanted to make sure the Nazi regime did not know General Von Kleist escaped, because he knew a lot about the Third Reich plans.”
People will be swept away with the all too real events, issues, and characters. Three of the main characters represented the viewpoints of those living under the auspices of the Nazi Party that culminated in Kristallnacht, an organized government pogrom against the Jews. The Jewish protagonist Stefan Silverman understood what was happening and was conflicted about putting public duty ahead of his own desires. His soul mate, Annabelle de’Creouville, recognized the bigotry of the Germans, as evidenced when she moved back to Paris, but was naïve regarding the brutality. A very powerful quote hammers the point home as Stefan tells Annabelle; “You do not understand a thing, Annabelle. The Germans want to destroy us. I mean obliterate. I mean they want us blistered from the face of the earth.”
Williams loved writing about Stefan because she considered him a flawed hero whose family “represented the Jews who influenced the German culture at the turn of the century. All of this wonderful creative production was coming out of the Jewish cultural legacy. The rest of the population in the 1930s betrayed Stefan’s family. He understood this and was very clear sighted about what was happening in Germany to the Jews.”
But the most compelling and engaging storyline was the backstory of Annabelle during the 1930s. Williams sets her in a world that is rapidly falling apart. She is faced with threats, struggles, and heartbreaks having to choose between the love of her life Stefan and the man she eventually marries for security, General Von Kleist. This book emphasizes how people are presented with choices in their life. Stefan must chose between public duty and his own inclinations towards Annabelle; she must choose between loyalty to her husband/children and her own innocence of wanting a perfect world where she and Stefan could live happily ever after; the General must chose between his loyalty to his country and his loyalty to his wife and children; and Pepper must make the choice of keeping the baby or giving it up for adoption.
“Along the Infinite Sea” is one of those special books where readers will not want the story to end. Williams does an amazing job of developing the characters and dual timelines set in Paris, Germany, and America. The human relationships are integrated into a riveting story that plays out in the backdrop of historical drama.