Imagine the cast of White Lotus crossed with the cast of Gossip Girl when they’re all grown up? Welcome to the book of Bad Summer People, which is set in Fire Island, an exclusive beach community just outside of New York City, where the city’s 1% go on holiday, play tennis, have affairs…and all with a mysterious murder thrown in for good measure.
Bad Summer People is just that – a bad summer filled with bad people. But it’s also the perfect page-turning summer read.
We meet Jen Weinstein and Lauren Parker, two beautiful and privileged New Yorkers who holiday on Fire Island every summer with their families, including their husbands Sam and Jason who have been best friends since childhood.
On the surface, everything appears idyllic, but as this darkly comedic book gathers pace the author begins to peel off the glossy veneer for the reader, as we discover the secrets and lies that their carefully curated lives are built upon.
‘I spent almost every summer on Fire Island,’ author Emma Rosenblum tells Grazia. ‘I was out there recently with my children for the whole of the summer and I felt like the town, which is so insular, so special, and so strange, was a great setting for a novel. A claustrophobic little town where everybody knows everybody else’s business is the perfect place for a combustible murder mystery.’
Rosenblum, who has lived in New York City her whole life, admits she drew heavily on her life there when writing her cast of characters. ‘They’re not real, but they’re heightened versions of the kind of people you find in New York, and the kind of people you find in these summer communities just outside of the city. They’re driven by two things, money and status, and they can be very self-unaware.
‘I remember one time listening to a conversation with somebody who was renovating their brownstone – and brownstones in New York City sell for around $30 million remember – and they were explaining how hard and stressful it was that their new stove was delayed. These people take themselves so seriously, from the way they talk about their kid’s schools, to their nannies, and their tennis. I’ve witnessed these people my whole life and I tried to infuse that sense of insider-outsider looking in, into the book.’
Each chapter is narrated by a different character, with the main cast supported by those insider/outsider characters looking wryly in. Like Robert, the handsome tennis pro who has just arrived on Fire Island and causes a stir amongst the wives; Rachel Woolf, a childhood friend of Sam and Jason, who is looking for love; Micah the bartender who knows everybody’s secrets; and Silvia, Lauren and Jason’s long-suffering nanny.
‘On the surface, all the characters are in their own way quite unlikable and flawed, but I also wanted the reader to understand them and their motives.’
So much so that when a body is found at the end of the summer, it’s not a case of whodunit, but who wouldn’t want to?
Grazia Book Club gives its verdict
‘Bad Summer People is exactly what it says: people behaving very badly over the course of one summer. Everyone in this book is awful, yet it’s strangely thrilling to watch these horrid spoilt rich folk get away with everything. And really, aren’t we all a little bit awful in some way?’ Jesse
‘If you’re looking for this year’s beach read, Emma Rosenblum has got your back with this perfect page-turner filled with sun, sex and a serving of sin. Imagine Gossip Girl has a reunion in their 40s? That would be the Salcolme elite, leaving the city for a scandalous summer.’ Fiona
‘This was so easy to read and definitely one for the beach! It felt like the characters were really fleshed out, I’d pass this on to friends, and I can see it as a TV show.’ Bronwyn