Wonderful Women By The Sea ($23.00; Apr. 1997; 336 pp.; 1-56584-338-X): This entertaining first novel, which earned its Flemish author ``two major Scandinavian literary prizes,'' describes several summer vacations enjoyed by a pair of women friends and their gradually intermingling and interdependent families. Isabella's young son Thomas and Rosa's willful daughter Renee stumble through an incipient relationship, which subtly parallels and mocks the vacillating degrees of intimacy indulged by their adult counterparts. Set in the 1960s and dominated by its protagonists' fascination with American political and social upheavals, this debut offers a bleak and funny view of the pains of growing up and the difficulties of adapting to rapidly changing times and ideals.