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The summer before the war : a novel
2016
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Fiction/Biography Profile
Characters
Beatrice Nash (Female), Writer, Her father recently passed away; tutoring three boys in Latin
Hugh Grange (Male), Visiting his aunt in a small coastal town
Genre
Fiction
Historical
War
Topics
World War I
Writers
Summer
Aunts
New ways vs. old ways
Gender roles
Women's lives
Setting
England - Europe
Time Period
1914 -- 20th century
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Trade Reviews

  Library Journal Review

England in the summer of 1914 is enjoying beautiful weather. Beatrice Nash, recently bereaved by the loss of her beloved father, is now determined to make her way in the world. Miss Nash accepts the post of Latin master at a grammar school in the village of Rye on the Sussex coast. In spite of the beautiful countryside and new acquaintances, a shadow looms-war is coming. The residents of Rye will be tested; conflict and change are also on the horizon. Simonson's (Major Pettigrew's Last Stand) compelling character study is a snapshot of life in a small English town on the cusp of enormous social change. Fiona Hardingham brings the story to life with a beautifully articulated performance and well defined characters. Verdict Highly recommended for all libraries. ["A good bet for those looking for a relatively gentle World War I-era historical with a touch of romance": LJ 2/1/16 review of the Random hc.]-Cynthia Jensen, Gladys Harrington Lib., Plano, TX © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

  Publishers Weekly Review

Simonson's dense follow-up to the bestselling Major Pettigrew's Last Stand focuses on gender, class, and social mores in the town of Rye in Sussex, England, at the dawn of World War I. Following the death of her father, who raised her to be intelligent and worldly, writer Beatrice Nash looks forward to tutoring three boys in Latin before she begins her position at school in the fall. Her advocate is the shrewd Agatha Kent, a discreet progressive who's married to John, a senior official in the military. The childless couple love their grown nephews, Hugh Grange, who is destined to be a doctor, and Daniel Bookham, a handsome poet who hopes to move to Paris and start his own journal with a friend. As a woman, Beatrice doesn't have much clout, nearly losing her job to nepotism and being dismissed by her favorite author, her relatives, and her dad's publishing house. Simonson does a great job crafting the novel's world. It's a large book, and the plot takes its time to get going, but the story becomes engaging after Germany invades Belgium and Rye takes in refugees. Simonson's writing is restrained but effective, especially when making quiet revelations. A heartbreaking but satisfying ending seems fitting for a story about the social constructs that unfairly limit people and their potential. Agent: Julie Barer, Barer Literary. (Mar.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Summary
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER * "A novel to cure your Downton Abbey withdrawal . . . a delightful story about nontraditional romantic relationships, class snobbery and the everybody-knows-everybody complications of living in a small community."-- The Washington Post <br> <br> The bestselling author of Major Pettigrew's Last Stand returns with a breathtaking novel of love on the eve of World War I that reaches far beyond the small English town in which it is set. <br>   <br> East Sussex, 1914. It is the end of England's brief Edwardian summer, and everyone agrees that the weather has never been so beautiful. Hugh Grange, down from his medical studies, is visiting his Aunt Agatha, who lives with her husband in the small, idyllic coastal town of Rye. Agatha's husband works in the Foreign Office, and she is certain he will ensure that the recent saber rattling over the Balkans won't come to anything. And Agatha has more immediate concerns; she has just risked her carefully built reputation by pushing for the appointment of a woman to replace the Latin master.<br>  <br> When Beatrice Nash arrives with one trunk and several large crates of books, it is clear she is significantly more freethinking--and attractive--than anyone believes a Latin teacher should be. For her part, mourning the death of her beloved father, who has left her penniless, Beatrice simply wants to be left alone to pursue her teaching and writing.<br>  <br> But just as Beatrice comes alive to the beauty of the Sussex landscape and the colorful characters who populate Rye, the perfect summer is about to end. For despite Agatha's reassurances, the unimaginable is coming. Soon the limits of progress, and the old ways, will be tested as this small Sussex town and its inhabitants go to war.<br>  <br> Praise for The Summer Before the War <br>   <br> "What begins as a study of a small-town society becomes a compelling account of war and its aftermath." -- Woman's Day <br>  <br> "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 <br>   <br> "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 <br>  <br> "[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 <br> <br> "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 <br>   <br> "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
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