Along the Infinite Sea by Beatriz Williams is a historical romance — with more emphasis on the history. In the setting 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, flashing back to reveal a mystery of regret and intrigue, keeping readers guessing at what happened until the very end of the book.
Along the Infinite Sea is alternately narrated by two women, Pepper in the 1960s and Annabelle in the 1930s. The novel begins as Pepper is selling a restored Mercedes she found in her sister’s in-laws’ Cape Cod shed as a means of providing for her impending life as a single mother. The buyer turns out to be the car’s original owner, Annabelle, who used the Roadster 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 and teaches her to survive. Both are strong, beautiful women whose lives are full of secrets.
Readers will be swept away with the all-too-real events, issues, and characters. Two of the main characters voice the viewpoints of those living under the auspices of the Nazi Party that culminated in Kristallnacht, an organized government pogrom against the Jews: apprehending the antisemitic violence soon to erupt, Stefan Silverman expresses ambivalence about putting public duty ahead of his own desires; his soul mate, Annabelle de’Creouville, recognizes the bigotry of the Germans — evidenced by her move back to Paris — but is naïve regarding the brutality. “You do not understand a thing, Annabelle,” Stefan argues. “The Germans want to destroy us. I mean obliterate. I mean they want us blistered from the face of the earth.” Their disagreements speak to the conflicting perspectives of German Jews as the Nazis gained power.
But the most compelling and engaging storyline is the backstory of Annabelle during the 1930s, in a world that is rapidly falling apart. She is faced with threats, struggles, and heartbreak in having to choose between the love of her life, Stefan, and the man she eventually marries for security, General Von Kleist. The novel 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 and children against her own innocence, the desire of a perfect world in which 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 her unborn 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. Human relationships are integrated into a riveting story that plays out in the backdrop of historical drama, as Beatriz Williams adeptly develops both the characters and the dual timelines set between Paris, Germany, and America.