12 reviews

The Summer Before the War: A Novel
by Helen Simonson

Published: 2017-02-21T00:0
Paperback : 512 pages
21 members reading this now
0 club reading this now
9 members have read this book
Recommended to book clubs by 12 of 12 members
Click on the ORANGE Amazon Button for Book Description & Pricing ...
No other editions available.
Add to Club Selections
Add to Possible Club Selections
Add to My Personal Queue
Jump to


Click on the ORANGE Amazon Button for Book Description & Pricing Info

Editorial Review

No Editorial Review Currently Available


No Excerpt Currently Available

Discussion Questions

1. Talk about the status of women's rights (or the lack of) during the setting of The Summer Before the War. What prejudices does Beatrice, as a woman, have to confront?

2. Comparisons of Simonson's book have been made to the television series Downton Abbey. What parallels do you see? Consider class and gender issues, as well as the effect of the war on the staid Edwardian sensibilities.

3. How would you describe Beatrice Nash? Why does Beatrice reject the idea of marriage?

4. Some of Simonson's dialogue is very funny. Find a few of the quips for fun...but also talk about the serious realities that underlie their surface humor. Consider, for example, this one about the arrival of Belgium refugees: "It is quite impossible to ask our ladies to take absolute peasants into their own houses, however charming their wooden clogs." Underneath its humor, what does it reveal about societal mores?

5. Talk about the incidents of cruelty, both on and off the battlefield. What might Simonson be hinting at when it comes to the cruelty of organized warfare vs. a "peaceful" village society engaged in rivalry for civic boards and pageants...or guns vs. sarcasm?

6. Describe the gruesome conditions and suffering in the battlefield trenches. How does the novel juxtapose that suffering with the naivete of the villagers back home?

7. Talk about how the rigid class attitudes were changed by the war. Hugh Grange, for instance, thinks that the "earthbound ruffians formed as indelible a part of England’s fabled backbone as any boys from Eton’s playing fields."

--from Litlovers

Suggested by Members

List characters by Class and What you liked about each.
Discuss the recruitment for the War and the difference between Officers and Enlisted Men
Can you contrast the Romany's (gypsies) to any present day group?
by bjwhitford (see profile) 04/21/17

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

“What begins as a study of a small-town society becomes a compelling account of war and its aftermath.”—Woman’s Day

“This witty character study of how a small English town reacts to the 1914 arrival of its first female teacher offers gentle humor wrapped in a hauntingly detailed story.”—Good Housekeeping

“Perfect for readers in a post–Downton Abbey slump . . . The gently teasing banter between two kindred spirits edging slowly into love is as delicately crafted as a bone-china teacup. . . . More than a high-toned romantic reverie for Anglophiles—though it serves the latter purpose, too.”—The Seattle Times

“[Helen Simonson’s] characters are so vivid, it’s as if a PBS series has come to life. There’s scandal, star-crossed love and fear, but at its heart, The Summer Before the War is about loyalty, love and family.”—AARP: The Magazine

“This luminous story of a family, a town, and a world in their final moments of innocence is as lingering and lovely as a long summer sunset.”—Annie Barrows, author of The Truth According to Us and co-author of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“Simonson is like a Jane Austen for our day and age—she is that good—and The Summer Before the War is nothing short of a treasure.”—Paula McLain, author of The Paris Wife and Circling the Sun

Book Club Recommendations

If you pick this selection for your book club make sure it is in the dead of winter when members have no other choice then to finish it.
by valglo1010 (see profile) 07/25/17
Tea and Crumpets or Little Sandwiches
by bjwhitford (see profile) 04/21/17
Would have been nice, but we usually just do cookies and bottled water. We only meet for an hour and sit in a semi circle. Contrast with any other WWI book that's been read. I have an outline of Plot, Characters, Themes, Settings that I follow as I read, it is too difficult to do this after (especially with an e-book). I also highlight excellent descriptions, dialogue, pithy sayings, etc. as I read along. I also do my reviews for Amazon, and Goodreads.

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
by Maureen W. (see profile) 06/07/19

by Kathy H. (see profile) 11/24/18

by kelsey p. (see profile) 10/06/18

by Patricia T. (see profile) 11/05/17

by patti q. (see profile) 07/25/17

  "Summer Before the War"by valerie g. (see profile) 07/25/17

I listened to the audio book, 13 disks and not until disk #10 did I think it became interesting and addictive. If I was reading it I would have stopped after the first 100 pages. This book is for fans... (read more)

  "The Summer Before the War"by Helen A. (see profile) 07/24/17

Boring, long

  "Charming village read "by Brenda M. (see profile) 06/25/17

Review I read The Summer Before the War as one of my book club selections. This is the first book by Helen Simonson that I have read and, as such, I had no expectations as I started it. Ho
... (read more)

by Lynn W. (see profile) 06/06/17

  "Changes Are A Coming"by Betty W. (see profile) 04/21/17

Almost needed a list of characters there were so many. One of our club members decided it reminded her of Downton Abbey, definitely the Edwardian Period and changes are coming. So many of th... (read more)

Rate this book
Remember me

Now serving over 80,000 book clubs & ready to welcome yours. Join us and get the Top Book Club Picks of 2022 (so far).


Get free weekly updates on top club picks, book giveaways, author events and more
Please wait...