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Adventurous,
Romantic,
Unconvincing

33 reviews

At the Water's Edge: A Novel
by Sara Gruen

Published: 2015-03-31
Hardcover : 368 pages
43 members reading this now
109 clubs reading this now
40 members have read this book
Recommended to book clubs by 26 of 33 members
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

In this thrilling new novel from the author of Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen again demonstrates her talent for creating spellbinding period pieces. At the Water’s Edge is a gripping and poignant love story about a privileged young woman’s awakening as she ...
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Introduction

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

In this thrilling new novel from the author of Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen again demonstrates her talent for creating spellbinding period pieces. At the Water’s Edge is a gripping and poignant love story about a privileged young woman’s awakening as she experiences the devastation of World War II in a tiny village in the Scottish Highlands.


After disgracing themselves at a high society New Year’s Eve party in Philadelphia in 1944, Madeline Hyde and her husband, Ellis, are cut off financially by his father, a former army colonel who is already ashamed of his son’s inability to serve in the war. When Ellis and his best friend, Hank, decide that the only way to regain the Colonel’s favor is to succeed where the Colonel very publicly failed—by hunting down the famous Loch Ness monster—Maddie reluctantly follows them across the Atlantic, leaving her sheltered world behind.
 
The trio find themselves in a remote village in the Scottish Highlands, where the locals have nothing but contempt for the privileged interlopers. Maddie is left on her own at the isolated inn, where food is rationed, fuel is scarce, and a knock from the postman can bring tragic news. Yet she finds herself falling in love with the stark beauty and subtle magic of the Scottish countryside. Gradually she comes to know the villagers, and the friendships she forms with two young women open her up to a larger world than she knew existed. Maddie begins to see that nothing is as it first appears: the values she holds dear prove unsustainable, and monsters lurk where they are least expected.
 
As she embraces a fuller sense of who she might be, Maddie becomes aware not only of the dark forces around her, but of life’s beauty and surprising possibilities.

Praise for At the Water’s Edge
 
“Breathtaking . . . a daring story of adventure, friendship, and love in the shadow of WWII.”Harper’s Bazaar
 
“A gripping, compelling story . . . Gruen’s characters are vividly drawn and her scenes are perfectly paced.”The Boston Globe
 
“A page-turner of a novel that rollicks along with crisp historical detail.”Fort Worth Star-Telegram
 
“Powerfully evocative.”—USA Today
 
“Gruen is a master at the period piece—and [this] novel is just another stunning example of that craft.”Glamour
 
“A captivating tale.”—Us Weekly
 
“Compulsively readable . . . a rich, beautiful novel . . . at once a gripping love story, a profound examination of the effects of war on ordinary women, and a compelling portrait of female friendship.”—Kristin Hannah
 
“Utterly winning.”—The Miami Herald
 
“A compelling, enthralling read, a novel which captivates and rewards, paying off in a series of emotional and narrative twists . . . comfort reading of the highest order.”—The Globe and Mail
 
“A super steamy love story.”—Good Housekeeping
 
“Unique in its setting and scope, this impeccably researched historical fiction is full of the gorgeous prose I’ve come to expect from this author.”—Jodi Picoult
 
“[Gruen] conveys the lure of the Scottish Highlands. . . . At the Water’s Edge captivates with its drama, intrigue and glimpses of both the dark and light of humanity.”BookPage

Editorial Review

No editorial review at this time.

Excerpt

Chapter One

Scottish Highlands, January 14, 1945

“Oh God, make him pull over,” I said as the car slung around yet another curve in almost total darkness.

It had been nearly four hours since we’d left the naval base at Aultbea, and we’d been careening from checkpoint to checkpoint since. I truly believe those were the only times the driver used the brakes. At the last checkpoint, I was copiously sick, narrowly missing the guard’s boots. He didn’t even bother checking our papers, just lifted the red and white pole and waved us on with a look of disgust. ... view entire excerpt...

Discussion Questions

1. The novel takes place during World War II. Is the war setting a distraction or does it contribute to the success of the novel? Would changing the time frame change the meaning of the novel?

2. “What I learned over the past year was that monsters abound, usually hiding in plain sight.” Monsters come in all different forms in At the Water’s Edge. What are some of the monsters in the novel? How are they different from what you’d expect?

3. Throughout At the Water’s Edge, Maddie transforms from a woman who is spoiled, naïve, and helpless to one who is brave and capable. What and who are the major influences that lead her to change? What are the biggest lessons Maddie learns throughout the course of the novel?

4. Discuss the novel’s ambiguity toward the supernatural. How does Gruen blend mystical elements into the narrative’s realism? Do Ellis and Hank find the Loch Ness monster after all?

5. Do you think Maddie and Ellis were ever truly in love? What did you think of Ellis? Did you sympathize with him? Did Ellis change as a character in the course of the novel or did the changes all take place within Maddie?

6. The idea for At the Water’s Edge came to Sara Gruen during a visit she took to Scotland. She became fascinated with the ruins of old castles, the wild beauty of nature, and Scottish history and folkore. Discuss the role the landscape and atmosphere of Scotland plays in the novel.

7. At the Water’s Edge explores humanity at its most base, as well as its most noble. Can you give some examples of both from the story? In the end, what kind of statement do you think Gruen makes about human nature?

8. Before she goes to Scotland, Maddie only has Ellis and Hank as friends. How does the female friendships she develops in Scotland shape her in new ways?

Suggested by Members

The paperback book I purchased had a good selection of questions for the bookclub
by [email protected] (see profile) 06/26/16

Do you believe in the monster?
by Decareader (see profile) 08/23/15

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

No notes at this time.

Book Club Recommendations

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
 
 
by bookchicks (see profile) 03/22/20

 
by pegt57 (see profile) 02/08/20

 
by mrstodd (see profile) 11/08/19

 
by [email protected] (see profile) 08/03/19

It surprised me how much I enjoyed this story, it’s characters and setting.

 
by hlarson (see profile) 03/15/17

 
  "Sara Gruen always good"by chlene36 (see profile) 02/18/17

I enjoy the author's descriptions. The power husbands held over wives is scary to think about.

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