Haute SpotCelebrating “The High Season”
There’s glitz and glamour galore in-season on the East End, as communities across the North and South Forks play host to the world’s rich and famous. While heady times for some, the transition often comes at a steep price for those who make the tip of Long Island their primary home.
But a rising tide lifts all boats, and with the arrival of the summer people comes incredible opportunity. And although the area’s pace quickens a bit as the fortunes are spread, there’s always time for year-rounders to enjoy the good life again come Tumbleweed Tuesday.
Perfectly capturing the essence of the struggles and the celebrations that come during the precious three months of sun and fun on the East End is Judy Blundell’s debut adult novel, “The High Season,” which hits bookshelves just in time for the summer. Set on the North Fork, and informed from the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature-winning author’s time spent in Montauk and Orient, the book tells the story of museum director Ruthie Beamish, who “has the perfect life. She just has to give it up every summer” in order to rent it out so she can afford it.
“Every summer Ruthie gave away her house by the sea,” the book opens. “During the month of May, she packed and polished. … Anything threadbare or worn dumped into one of the summer boxes and sealed with squealing tape. T-shirts had been whisked off hooks and the backs of bathroom doors, and fragrant chunks of Provençal soaps nestled in blue-and-white bowls by the sinks.”
A love letter to the laid-back lifestyle and the places that we all call home—whether for good or only a few too-quick couple of months—the page-turning novel perfectly illustrates Ruthie’s tug-of-war between the financial windfall she receives from the rental fees and the annual “summer bummer” hardship that comes with uprooting her entire family and life for it. Especially when this year’s lessee sets her hooks in our heroine’s almost ex-husband.
Ms. Blundell, who is happily married to Long Island Museum Stony Brook Director Neil Watson, lived in Montauk for a year with her husband during the beginnings of their marriage in the early 1980s. Since, the couple and their daughter have spent many happy times on both Forks. For “The High Season,” which was approximately a decade in the making but took about a year to write, they returned, renting homes in Orient while writing and later for revisions.
The summers are great, the author says. But she really enjoys the solace and the peace that comes from being out east during the less populated times.
“You live so differently out here in the summer, depending on if you’re a year-rounder or seasonal renter,” says Ms. Blundell, who now lives in Stony Brook. “The thing to remember is that we need the summer. But we’ve got the fall and spring too. And you can walk on the beach in February and it’s still fabulous!”
In “The High Season,” the author has tapped into a deep knowledge of place and time. Much more complex than the average beach read, it’s also quite compelling, thanks to her considerable experience as a young adult and middle-grade book writer. Her titles include “What I Saw and How I Lied” and a few dozen of the “Star Wars” prequel-era books, such as the journals of Princess Leia, Queen Amidala and Darth Maul under the name Jude Watson for LucasBooks.
Currently, she’s hard at work on another adult novel. But her time as a YA writer has served her well, reports Ms. Blundell.
“Coming from children’s books to adults, you really learn how to keep a plot moving so you don’t lose your reader,” she says. “I specifically wanted to take that idea of a propulsive plot and marry that with the sensibility of a literary novel. I wanted it to be fantastically fast-paced, but also in-depth, because that is what you want in a good summer read.”