The Summer Before The War
By Helen Simonson
What’s it about? This novel takes place in Rye, England in 1914 and centers around Beatrice Nash. Beatrice is young, single and trying to find her way after the death of her father. She arrives in Rye to teach Latin to the local schoolchildren. The Edwardian lifestyle depicted in this novel will change drastically after World War 1. This novel transports us to 1914 and gives us a glimpse into what it was to live in a small countryside village in England at the brink of war.
What did it make me think about? This book is so charming- and managing to such a book is a real talent. Ms. Simonson manages to charm you with her English cast of characters at the same time she is teaching you about a different era. Most importantly this is a universal story about war, and what a tragedy it is at any time.
Should I read it? Yes! If you enjoyed “Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand” then be warned that this latest novel by Helen Simonson is somewhat different. This book has a large cast of characters, and the plot moves at a little slower pace (Beatrice doesn’t actually start teaching until 2/3 of the way through the book). However it is a wonderful novel filled with characters that you will want to spend a few days with. Think Downton Abby in a novel… It does start out slowly, but Beatrice, Uncle John, Aunt Agatha, Hugh, Daniel, Snout and the rest make the pages move right along. I will miss Rye in 1914!
Quote- “An unworthy concern flickered through her mind that Cook might now take to being absent without warning, burning gravy because of tiredness, bringing her granddaughter with her to get underfoot in the kitchen. Agatha was forced to consider whether her sympathetic interest in her staff’s families might have more to do with appearing generous than with any willingness to be inconvenienced by their actual problems.”