Saturday, August 6, 2016

The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson

    • The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson
    • Published March 22, 2016
    • Other work by the author: Major Pettigrew's Last Stand

    • The story takes place beginning in Summer 1914 in England just before the start of the First World War.
    • Agatha and her husband John live in a small town and their two adult nephews visit them often.
    • The nephews, cousins to each other, have diverse aspirations: Hugh is studying medicine and hopes to marry his mentor's daughter eventually. Daniel is a poet. Because they are both in their 20s we know they will somehow become involved in the war effort.
    • Beatrice, after the loss of her father several months before, moves to town to act as the Latin teacher.
    • All their stories and those of the local town folk emerge as war is declared and everything changes.

    • I really enjoyed the book. Small town England, historical fiction and some great characters make for an enjoyable read. I will add the author's first book to my list of "To Be Read"!
    • If you have watched "Downton Abbey" you will enjoy this book. The war starts in that show's second season. 
    • There are only a few titled people in the book --- they aren't the main characters like in "Downton" --- but you will meet members of the working and servant classes along with the landed gentry. 
    • Women will have a larger place in the world as the men go off to fight.
    • One character seems to be gay but as this was a crime in those days the subject is broached by the other characters delicately and no anachronistic acceptance occurs. Rather you see a healthy dose of denial. While sad this seems much more realistic for the times.
      • In "Downton Abbey" the character of Thomas is gay and the others are quietly accepting of it. 
    • Recommended for those who like "Downton Abbey" and fiction books about England.