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The Summer Before the War
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Archive: Other Books > The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson - 4 Stars

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 Olivermagnus (lynda214) | 1952 comments As indicated by the title, “The Summer Before the War” is set in the English town of Rye, the summer of 1914, just before Britain enters the first World War. The world is anticipating the German invasion of Belgium and few of the characters have any idea how the changes will affect them.

Following the recent death of her father, Beatrice Nash accepts a job as a Latin teacher at a local grammar school. It was arranged through her aunt's connection to the imposing Agatha Kent, a school board member whose husband John works for the Foreign Office. Agatha is a woman ahead of her time and is able to manipulate most of the town through flattery and dinner parties. Agatha's two nephews, Hugh Grange and Daniel Bookham, add to the story, as do their many friends. Hugh is planning to become a surgeon and is very responsible and kind. Daniel writes poetry and is very handsome. Beatrice is trying to keep control of her small trust fund but is constantly being thwarted by her aunt. There is also an interesting mix of Belgian refugees and some gypsies.

The story starts out very slowly. I was at least a quarter of the way through the book before it picked up. However all the background and character building made the rest of the book even better. I thought the best thing about the book were the richly drawn characters and the amusing dialogue. As in most books set in wartime, you're probably going to need some tissues. Despite the fact I was crying, I absolutely loved the ending. I didn't like the book as much as Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, but I'm not going to forget Rye and the people who lived there for a long time.

message 2: by Book Concierge (last edited Jun 17, 2016 08:10AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Book Concierge (tessabookconcierge) | 5641 comments I also gave this 4 stars. Simonson's writing reminds me of Jane Austen.

Karin | 6926 comments Had I read this in print, I may well have given it 4 stars. Loved the audiobook presentation, though, so it got 5 stars as a result.

message 4: by Anita (new)

Anita Pomerantz | 6277 comments I do want to read this one eventually. But my next book needs to be one that doesn't "start out very slowly."

message 5: by Karin (last edited Jun 26, 2016 09:59AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Karin | 6926 comments Anita wrote: "I do want to read this one eventually. But my next book needs to be one that doesn't "start out very slowly.""

Makes sense. If you can listen to this on audio it's lovely.

message 6: by Denizen (new) - added it

Denizen (den13) | 1138 comments I'll try to remember that, Karin.

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