Pageviews past week

Friday, December 2, 2016

#79 - The Summer Before the War - Helen Simonson

Title:  The Summer Before the War
Author:   Helen Simonson
Read by:  Fiona Hardingham
Genre:  Historical
Category:  Fiction
Rating:  A
Published:  2016
Dates:  11/19/16 – 12/2/16

I kept thinking this book was about WWII and it took me until the Epilogue to realize it occurred in WWI.  Doh!  I guess if I’d read the back cover I’d have learned the setting was East Sussex, 1914.  And yet the theme is one that could be set in today’s world.
It’s a love story, a war story, a story of human emotions and heartache, about people trying to be politically correct.  The hard-headedness and stone-heartedness of people distressed me immensely and, yet, is the very nature of the human beast. 
Hugh Grange is down from his medical studies to visit his Aunt Agatha Kent whose husband works for the Foreign Office.  They live in the coastal British town of Rye.  Everyone is hoping the eminence of war can be kept at bay.  About the same time Beatrice Nash arrives with one trunk and many big boxes of books.  She is to replace the Latin Master.  In her corner is Agatha who has been pushing for a woman to take the teacher’s place.  Beatrice is a free-thinker, attractive and mourning the loss of her beloved father.  Penniless Beatrice wants only to be left alone to pursue her teaching and writing.
We meet all sorts of characters – Agatha and John’s other nephew, a poet; Snout, a student at the school where Beatrice will teach; a refugee from Belgium whom the Kents provide lodging.  The mayor and his wife have their opinions about people.  And other people too seem to have never heard of being kind.  Such is life leading up to the war and in the War, itself. 
Simonson takes us to the battlefields in France, the trenches and we see how men and boys who knew each other in Rye are pulled in opposing directions at the decisions their commanding officers bring down upon them.
All in all, the story is thoroughly satisfying and I highly recommend it.

No comments: