The Summer Before the War: A Novel
by Helen Simonson
Paperback- $10.90

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • “A novel to cure your Downton Abbey withdrawal . . . a delightful story about nontraditional romantic ...

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  "" by Books1 (see profile) 06/06/17

  "Charming village read " by bmedvid (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. However, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It felt like a cross between Downton Abbey and an E.M. Forster novel. Fans of that mixing (or anyone experiencing Downton Abbey withdrawal) will delight in this book. Simonson developed quirky but real characters from the village of Rye during the start of World War I. Almost every type of character is in this story including the aristocrats, the servants, the eccentrics, the provincial mayor and wife, the Shakespearesque groundling ambulance drivers, the teacher, the school boy, and even the Romani. Each character is well developed with their own faults and charms. Some are more beloved than others, but each feels real. There were laugh-out-loud moments as well as reach for the tissue box moments and everything in between.

At times the story felt slow and overly long, but after completing the book, I decided that the length and seemingly slow parts were necessary to fully develop the characters as well as, to immerse the reader completely into village life and the time period. To those reading this novel and wishing for a stricter editor, I encourage you to stick with it as it pays off in the end. I felt that I had a much greater understanding of the character's motives. I also felt part of the village and learned much more about this particular time period.

Even though this is a relatively light and delightful read, some hefty topics were also brought up, like the care of immigrants, the limited opportunities for the working class and women at the time, the cruelty and inhumanity that war can bring about, and the manners/etiquette of the time period. Our book club had a great discussion about the role of and betrayal by fathers, literally and even figuratively in terms of the patriarchal role of "country" and the war machine. (Slight Spoiler Ahead). We also had a great debate, detective hunt through the story, and an ah-ha moment when one of our members asked the question: "Did we think that Daniel was Agatha's son not nephew?"

I would definitely recommend this book. Having read it, I now want to read the earlier work of this author.

  "The Summer Before the War" by hlanderson1 (see profile) 07/24/17

Boring, long

  "Summer Before the War" by valglo1010 (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 of Downton Abbey with all the proper English and social class. Not my cup of tea...

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