Carolina Dreams: It’s All Anne Rivers Siddons’ Fault

Anne Rivers Siddons is responsible for one of my ultimate fantasies: a Carolina beach vacation.

I’ve been a fan of the author Anne Rivers Siddons ever since my mother and I started scouring the new fiction shelf at the San Jose Public Library for her work. Sure, she writes male characters that are only slightly more real than the men in Elin Hilderbrand’s Nantucket novels, but her women are strong, and three-dimensional. More importantly, the HOUSES they live in are amazing. When I think of Anne Rivers Siddons, I think first of the beach, then of women characters, and then of architecture.

Outer Banks

One of the first Siddon’s novels I remember reading was Outer Banks. It was about true love and lost love, coming of age, finding one’s path, and of the changing relationships between friends, lovers, and families, and of course it had a wonderful house where much of the drama took place.

Granted, Siddon’s houses are nothing like the Carolina Designs homes that people can rent for their very own Carolina vacations. Hers tend to be draughty old summer cottages with sand stuck between the floor boards, and weathered paint. Charming to read about, but not where I’d want to stay.

So, where do I see myself on my fantasy visit to Carolina? Well this house is my ideal. It sleeps ten, so Fuzzy and I could invite the entire family, but everyone would still have their own space. It has cable, wifi and a wet bar (because we all know vacations are all about booze and the internet), and xbox, so my vampire-skin husband would have something to do while I’m basking on the sand or splashing in the surf. It has a lot of bathrooms – really important – and it also has a full kitchen. And did I mention the pool and tennis courts.

I have an aunt whose husband’s family owns a “cottage” in the Hamptons. Like the old homes in Siddon’s novels it’s huge and cold, with beds that include one referred to as the double taco, because it folds you into itself so completely – and not in a good way.

My vacation fantasy does not involve being suffocated by an ancient bed.

My vacation fantasy draws elements from another of Siddons’ novels, Low Country, which was all about the relationship between Anglo and Gullah communities in South Carolina. As much as I’d love an ‘in’ into the Gullah world, what really drew me about that novel was the food. The characters in that story were tied to their food, to their Sunday dinners, to sharing meals together, and as someone who grew up in a family of amateur and professional chefs, food is a language I speak well.

I long to have my family assembled for a barbecue within sight – or at least scent – of the ocean, with those coastal breezes making everything taste better. I want to sit on a deck at dusk nursing a beer and nibbling on the perfect burger, and not caring that there’s sand in my hair and that my nose is a little sunburnt.

I want to have wonderful days by the sea with people I love, and then, like Ms. Siddons, I want to curl up and write about it, turning it into a novel, a series of short stories, a memoir.

I want to be in Carolina..and it’s all Anne Rivers Siddons’ fault!

Low Country

Booking through Thursday: Hot


On Thursday, June 25th, Booking through Thursday asked:

Now that summer is here (in the northern hemisphere, anyway), what is the most “Summery” book you can think of? The one that captures the essence of summer for you?

(I’m not asking for you to list your ideal “beach reading,” you understand, but the book that you can read at any time of year but that evokes “summer.”)

For me, it’s not just one book, but the works of one author, Anne Rivers Siddons, that give me that summery feeling. I consider her a “guilty pleasure” author at times, but I love her books because she’s an excellent storyteller who writes great women characters, and blends enough detail about things like clothing, jewelry, and room decor, with plot, setting, and subtext.

While I’ve enjoyed all of Siddon’s work, my favorites are the novels that take place at the coast – either in the Carolinas (Low Country, Up Island), or New England (Colony, Off Season) that draw me most, at least in part because I miss the shore so much.

Review: Off Season, by Anne Rivers Siddons

Off Season
by Anne Rivers Siddons
Get it from Amazon >>

I’m not sure if I introduced Anne Rivers Siddons’ work to my mother, or if she introduced it to me, but when you want something a little bit beachy and a little bit romantic, with vibrant women characters, no one beats her. This is especially true of her most recent book, Off Season.

In this novel, we are once again on the coast of New England, this time in Maine, in Carters Cove, following the life of a feisty girl named Lilly as she meets her first love (at the tender age of eleven), keeps tabs on the local osprey population, and does gymnastics in the basement gym built by her father.

As she grows up, we see her relationship with her artist-mother, her marriage to the devoted Cam, an architect, and the birth of her children, but her dog, Wilma, and the summer home in Maine are Lilly’s two touchstones, and at time function as additional characters.

Siddons excels at these gentle, dreamy stories of individual women, most of whom are somehow artistic, and the strong, complicated men they marry, and even when her tales veer into implausibility, they still leave you with the sense that you’ve read a really satisfying story.

Goes well with: Ice cold lemonade, a porch swing, and a cotton throw rug.



Anne Rivers Siddons

We all have “guilty pleasure” authors – Anne Rivers Siddons is one of mine.

I’ve just finished her most recent novel, Islands, and while I have to agree that it’s not her best work, it was still an enjoyable read. She’s returned to the South Carolina Low Country she loves so much, which means that even when you hate the characters, you love the houses they live in, and even when the plot gets rather cheesey, you can still feel the sea breezes and smell the sand, and feel the humidity.

People are often surprised that I read Siddons’ work, because her target demographic is really my mother’s generations, but there’s something compelling about her tragic heroines in their weathered beach houses. Though, admittedly, my favorite of her novels didn’t take place anywhere near a beach.

This novel tells the story of a group of friends – doctors and their wives – who own a Low Country beach house together. It’s fairly typical beach reading: entangled relationships, personal tragedy, a dash of romance. It’s not as meaty as, say, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, but I’d still recommended it.