Book Review: The Girls of August by Anne Rivers Siddons

The Girls of August
by
Anne Rivers Siddons

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I’m working on my library’s summer reading Bingo card and picked The Girls of August to fill one of the squares, to read an eBook from the library’s staff picks.

The Girls of August is a beach read about four southern women, Madison, Rachel, Barbara and Melinda, who become best friends when their husbands are in medical school. Every August since, they’ve rented a beach house for an all-girls week of sun, wine, food and gossip. The story, narrated by Madison, opens when the women are in their forties. After a three-year lapse, plans are underway to meet again, but this time it will be without their beloved Melinda, who died in a tragic accident.

After much discussion, the women agree to meet at a new place, but there’s a catch. Melinda’s husband has remarried and his new wife has volunteered to host. Problem is, the new wife, appropriately named Baby, is a free spirit and twenty years younger. She’ll never be able to fill Melinda’s shoes.

Baby’s house is located on the remote fictional Tiger Island where Baby grew up, among the Sea Islands of South Carolina. The women will be all alone, for two weeks this time, except for the Gullah people who live on the other side of the island. The house is gorgeous and fully equipped and Baby shows it off with pride. Madison, Rachel and Barbara settle in, but they can’t let go of Melinda’s memory. To ease their pain, they target Baby with snide remarks and eye rolls. To be fair, Baby is a puzzle. On the surface, she’s immature, acts erratically and prances around the rooms and on the beach half-naked and sometimes naked! Is she reacting to the women or are the women reacting to Baby? In addition Madison senses trouble with her dear friends. Barbara hasn’t stopped drinking since they arrived and Rachel’s dark mood frightens her.

Small calamities, storms and plenty of drama frame this story about friendship and acceptance. To be honest, these weren’t my kind of women. The older friends are selfish and petty, the kind who wield power from inside their clique. Readers will learn more about Baby’s life and why she acts mysteriously. That makes her the most relatable, but none of the characters are fully developed. Siddons also brings the culture of the Gullah people into the story to tie together some of the plot lines. I thought this was the most interesting part of the book.

Anne Rivers Siddons was an American writer of nineteen novels, including The House Next Door (1978), Peachtree Road (1988) and Outer Banks (1991). I realized later that I read Peachtree Road years ago! The Girls of August (2014) was her last novel. Reader reviews suggest it wasn’t her best and I’m thinking about going back to her earlier books to get a better taste of her stories, including Peachtree Road because I don’t remember much! Have you read any of Siddons’ books? Which would you recommend? Leave a comment!

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25 thoughts on “Book Review: The Girls of August by Anne Rivers Siddons

  1. I believe I read two of her earlier books and liked them. I think this one would turn me off, so thanks so much for the review!

  2. Interesting. I wonder why Baby (as you indicated, no subtlety there!) would want to be included among a group of long-time friends of her predecessor. Sounds strange, but maybe this is part of why the book wasn’t one of Siddons’s best. Seems a bit like an older version of Mean Girls. I don’t think I’ve read any of her novels but like you, I may have forgotten!

    1. Hi Lynette – I don’t think it was one of her best and it was the last one she wrote. It had that “cranked out” kind of feel to it. I couldn’t relate to the characters – not my kind of female friendship. Not sure why Baby would have wanted to be included – none of the characters were developed enough to understand. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  3. Nice review! I haven’t read any of Siddon’s books, but I remember hearing a lot about her when I briefly lived in the South. I do sometimes enjoy Southern fiction, but it sounds like I’d be better off looking for one of her earlier books.

    1. Hi Lisa – yes, when I get the time I’m going to go back to one of her earlier books. There’s one that Stephen King said was excellent – I think it was The House Next Door. Thanks for reading and commenting 🙂

  4. Hi, Barbara – Thank you for another very honest and compelling review. When I first began to read your description, I thought that I may have read this book before — but as I read further, I realized that I hadn’t. Like you, these are not my kind of women. Though it does sound like a very intriguing plot — and I am in desperate need of a beach read! 😀

    1. Hi Donna – I need to read another beach read for my library Bingo card. I haven’t picked one yet, though! Thank you for reading and commenting. I hope it isn’t as hot in Canada as it is here 🥵

    1. Hi Ann – I think this is the style of a certain kind of book, with a lot of drama but not a lot of depth. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  5. Great review. I haven’t read any of her previous books but I’m not sure this one appeals to me, it just sounds like a lot of grown-up bullying, although it sounds like the author’s earlier works are better. Thanks for sharing your opinion with us. KL ❤

  6. HI Barbara, I have read any books by this author but I’m not a fan of these girls club type of books. They make me feel left out as I like a balance of male and female company [smile].

  7. Thanks for the honest review, Barb. I usually don’t pick books that have “women behaving badly themes” so I would skip this one even if it had better-developed characters. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  8. I was on a reading binge of Anne Rivers Siddons’ books some time ago. A few of the ones I enjoyed were The Couple Next Door, Outer Banks, Up Island, and King’s Oak. Like I said, I’ve read a good many but none that sounded similar to the one you’ve reviewed here. Don’t think it’s one I’d enjoy. Thanks for the honest review.

    1. Hi Sherrey – I think I would like some of her earlier books. I’ve read other reviews of The Girls of August and many say this wasn’t her best. Thanks for recommending these titles. And thanks for reading and commenting!

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