Book Review: The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson

The Summer before the war II

Hardcover, 481 pages
Published March 22nd 2016 by Random House

East Sussex, 1914. It is the end of England’s brief Edwardian summer, and everyone agrees that the weather has never been so beautiful. Hugh Grange, down from his medical studies, is visiting his Aunt Agatha, who lives with her husband in the small, idyllic coastal town of Rye. Agatha’s husband works in the Foreign Office, and she is certain he will ensure that the recent saber rattling over the Balkans won’t come to anything. And Agatha has more immediate concerns; she has just risked her carefully built reputation by pushing for the appointment of a woman to replace the Latin master.

When Beatrice Nash arrives with one trunk and several large crates of books, it is clear she is significantly more freethinking—and attractive—than anyone believes a Latin teacher should be. For her part, mourning the death of her beloved father, who has left her penniless, Beatrice simply wants to be left alone to pursue her teaching and writing.

But just as Beatrice comes alive to the beauty of the Sussex landscape and the colorful characters who populate Rye, the perfect summer is about to end. For despite Agatha’s reassurances, the unimaginable is coming. Soon the limits of progress, and the old ways, will be tested as this small Sussex town and its inhabitants go to war.

My thoughts:

I admit I have not read many novels that center around Word War I or the Great War-if you will. For that matter I have not studied in length this war as I have of the second War. So my curiosity was heighten when I read that this story takes place in 1914. This is the first book I have read by Helen Simonson and I am looking forward to reading her others.

There are several elements to this story that really grabbed me. The character development is one of them and a stunning language throughout. I found this to be a splendid account of life of a small village leading up to the war and how their lives began to change was really fascinating. Beatrice Nash is a character I look up to and admire. Truly I did not want to stop reading about her. Another theme was how this village took on refugees and explores a little of the attitudes and the coming together to support others in this changing time in history.

This story is full of smart wit with a flare of grandeur, simplicity and sensibilities all blended together. A variety cast of characters who will charm you, frustrate you and leave you wanting to never leave their company.

A must read!

I rated this book four stars and received a copy of this book through NetGalley for an honest review.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

5 thoughts on “Book Review: The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson

  1. Pingback: The Summer Before the War: A Novel, by Helen Simonson – A Review | Austenprose - A Jane Austen Blog

  2. Pingback: Layered Pages Top reads: 2016 – Layered Pages

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