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Leeway Cottage: A Novel [Paperback]

Beth Gutcheon

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Book Description

April 27 2006 P.S.

In April 1940, as the Nazis march into Denmark, Sydney Brant, a wealthy girl of the Dundee summer colony, marries a gifted Danish pianist, Laurus Moss. They believe they are well matched, as young lovers do, but Laurus's beloved family is in Copenhagen, hostage to what the fortunes of Hitler's war will bring. By the time the war is over, Laurus's family has played an active role in Denmark's grassroots rescue of virtually all seven thousand of the country's Jews. Meanwhile, in America, Sydney has led a group knitting for the war effort, and had a baby.

Combining the story of one long American twentieth-century marriage with one of the most stirring stories of World War II, Leeway Cottage is a beautifully written tour de force of a novel.


Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Avon; 1 edition (April 27 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060539062
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060539061
  • Product Dimensions: 2.7 x 13.1 x 20 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 340 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,071,420 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

In this sprawling family epic, Gutcheon (More Than You Know) chronicles how an unlikely marriage endures over the course of the 20th century. The novel is anchored in the idyllic, fictional summer colony of Dundee, Maine, which will always feel like home to Annabelle Sydney Brant, but turns on the story of the Danish resistance against the Nazis in WWII, a revolt Annabelle's Danish-born, half-Jewish husband, Laurus Moss, leaves the U.S. to join. Annabelle matures from the young, cosseted Annabee (coming-out parties in Cleveland, sailing in Maine) to the bohemian Sydney (voice lessons and a flat in New York City), clashing with her chilly, socialite mother, Candace, along the way. In New York, she meets Laurus, a pianist, and as they court, Hitler marches on Europe. When the Nazis invade Denmark in 1940, Laurus cannot rest idly with his homeland and family endangered, so joins the London-based Danish Resistance. During their separation, Sydney gives birth to the first of three children and Laurus's family escapes from Denmark to Sweden. The war and time apart change but don't estrange Laurus and Sydney, whose lasting union despite glaring differences puzzles observers: "Sydney and Laurus Moss were like a tiger and a zebra married to each other. What were those two doing together?" Charting a marriage against the backdrop of a tumultuous century, Gutcheon writes evocatively of love and war.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Gutcheon revisits Dundee, Maine, to create a Cinderella story with a different ending. Sydney Brant grows up in wealth and privilege, the apple of her father's eye. When he dies, she is left with her overbearing mother, who is impossible to please. Sydney escapes to Manhattan to be a singer, determined to live her life just the way she wants to. She meets Laurus Moss, a poor but gifted piano player from Copenhagen. They fall in love and marry, but World War II intervenes. Laurus, half-Jewish, goes to England to aid the Dutch underground, while Sydney stays home to have a baby and organize knitting groups. The horrors of the camps and his family's trials are mere annoyances to Sydney, whose world is all about sailboat races and children. Told against the backdrop of the amazing Danish Resistance and their protection of the Dutch Jews, Gutcheon's tale is more than just a story of a marriage; it's a metaphor for an era. Elizabeth Dickie
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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Amazon.com: 3.7 out of 5 stars  37 reviews
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Leeway Cottage May 16 2005
By Susan C. Evans - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
If you are a book club member or better yet, a book club facilitator, this is the book for you. There is something for everyone in this novel. It is both a family saga and an historial novel recounting the Danish Resistance Movement in World War II. The author does an artful job of weaving the two elements together. Often in a book of this scope, the author reaches a point where he has to tie up the loose ends and the finale disappoints. Not so here. Gutcheon finishes on a strong note. The book is well-researched, well-written, poignant, insightful and laugh-out-loud funny. It doesn't get any better than this.
29 of 35 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Two Different Lives July 3 2005
By Nancy R. Katz - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I rarely if ever read other Amazon reviews before writing my own, but this morning in preparation for writing a review of Leeway Cottage by Beth Gutcheon, I did peek at one or two and am afraid I wasn't quite as taken with this book as I thought I would be. A long time reader of Beth Gutcheon's since her first book, Still Missing to her latest one More than You Know, I have always found her novels to be refreshing even taking on different themes and almost different writing styles each time. But after finishing Leeway Cottage, I wondered if Ms. Gutcheon took on more than she should have in one book. And now looking back on this title, I do wonder what point the author was trying to make since there were two very distinct storylines and they never seemed to mesh that well to me.

The story begins with the well to do background of one of the main characters, Sydney, and how her ancestors built and lived in a cottage in a summer community. When Sydney is a young woman, good friends of her family live in Leeway Cottage which will be her home one day. Life is good for Sydney or so it appears. A Kennedy type life Sydney sails during the day and parties at night with her crowd of friends. Sydney is destined to come out at a debutante ball, attend college for a year or two, marry a wealthy man, bear children and hopefully live a happy life. But when her father abruptly dies and Sydney is left in her mother's demanding and at times abusive hands Sydney's home life changes considerably. And than a chance encounter with a Danish pianist, Laurus, and meeting him again in New York City when Sydney leaves home at 18, sets in motion two very different worlds which will soon collide.

The first part of the book describes to readers Sydney's dilettante lifestyle. And while her life with just her mother is considerably difficult, Sydney also inherits a great deal of money from her father which when she's 18 allows her to leave her mother's home. This money also allows her to buy Leeway Cottage when it goes on the market. And shortly after the birth of their first child and war breaks out, Sydney retreats to Leeway Cottage renewing her old friendships but this time on her own terms as a wealthy woman in her own right. But Laurus does not return to Leeway Cottage with Sydney. As a Dane and a Jew, Laurus feels compelled to return to Europe and serve in the underground jeopardizing his life and marriage. And now we have a shift in the book as Sydney is at home o once again living the high life among society despite the war while Laurus is hard at work not only trying to save members of his own family from Hitler, but the lives of other Danish Jews as well.

While I was familiar with some of the stories surrounding the Danish Resistance during WW II, I did learn more about this and enjoyed reading the historical information provided in this book. But then I began to wonder why I never felt the two distinct parts of the book never fully came together to tell one large story. While there were parts that were very well written I was left disappointed by the efforts of a writer who has done much better in the past. And just as I was about to finish the book I was further confounded by the last chapter and wondered if it was misplaced in the publishing process. After we learn about an illicit love affair which seemed to be written for shock value and the end of Sydney and Laurus' lives, Ms. Gutcheon returns to the war and describes Laurus' sister's life and release from a concentration camp. I still wonder why the author chose to end the book with these events since they seemed to come from left field.

I really wanted to enjoy this book and recommend it to others as I have done in the past with other books by this author. I do think that Ms. Gutcheon was trying to chronicle a marriage between two people from different worlds and not necessarily suite for a happy life together. Or perhaps she tried to show the different lifestyles of two characters and how their desires ultimately affected their lives together. In the end, though, I thought that the author might have done better to write two books rather than the one she did. That way we would have had a much larger story of the Danish Resistance and the life of a socialite.

If after reading this review you are still interested in reading worthwhile Beth Gutcheon books, I suggest you read her first book Still Missing or her wonderful paralleling story set over a period of 100 years, More than You Know.
19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the Best Books Out This Year! May 16 2005
By Mary Lins - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
"Leeway Cottage" is so good that I tried to SLOW DOWN so I wouldn't finish it too fast...but I couldn't! All the characters are so vivid and interesting and Gutcheon does a fabulous job showing us their growth and change. There was a wonderful wealth of historical information about the Danish experience in WWII that I had never read about before in such rich, if disturbing, detail.

To call this novel "great beach reading" is to trivialize its impact and depth...but it certainly is the book to select if you want to be transported this summer.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Two, two, two books in one Aug. 10 2007
By Amy Roy - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I get the feeling that Beth Gutcheon knew a bit about the Danish resistance during WWII and created a story to fit around it. After doing extensive research of the role of the Danes in saving their Jewish population, she wrote the book. Unfortunately, the stories just don't mesh.

I found Sydney to be an interesting and complicated character. I didn't care for her for most of the book, but I understood how she became the woman she was. All she's looking for is acceptance and strives her whole life for her mom's approval, even while taking joy in irritating her. The fact that Sydney herself alienates her daughters as her mother alienated her makes perfect sense. After all, her mother's behavior toward her guarantees that Sydney will never feel loved enough. In her mind she's under-appreciated and for once wants to be the center of attention. She achieves that with her frequent angry outbursts and by being difficult with everyone. She finally gets a measure of acceptance from her troublesome son, Jimmy, but only as long as she lets him do whatever he wants and defends him, no matter what the charges are and how guilty he is. Yes, Sydney drinks too much, is self-absorbed and spoiled and has no concept of the enormity of what happened to Jews in Europe during WWII, but she herself mentions how small her world is. Her experiences are simply too narrow. How many of us would have been the same way if we lived during that time?

I was disappointed with the lack of info on Berthe's suicide after Sydney found out about it. What happened? And what about Sydney being found in the embrace of an obviously gay woman? What happened? After Candace and whats-his-face die, what happened to The Plywoods?

The portion of the book spent in Europe was absolutely compelling. I would like to read an entire book on that alone. It was well written and inspiring. I put myself in Nina and Per's position and wondered if I would've risen to the challenge. The last chapter, which I presume to be part of Laurus's life movie, was brutal and I'm glad there wasn't more of that in the book, to be honest. But in the other parts of the book, Nina is no more a major character than her parents, Gladdy, etc. So, how strange that the only portion of the movie we see is about her, and not all of Laurus's life, like why he stayed with Sydney.

One more thing - I reread the first chapter of the book, as I frequently do when a book starts in the present and then goes back in time. I'd forgotten about the big deal the kids made about The Dress they found in an upstairs closet. I had to really think about it and then realized it was the dress that Sydney wore at her Coming Out, when her mother came down in the exact same dress. I don't know. While it was a turning point in that it pushed Sydney out of the house, it just didn't seem memorable enough to warrant the treatment it got in the first chapter as if we were supposed to expect some big scene with the dress.

Aaaanyway, I know I had some other issues with the book and would love to sit in a room with the rest of the people who wrote reviews, esp. the 5-star reviews, but I'll have to be content with reading further reviews to see if anyone can give me the insight I missed.

One more thing, I read More Than You Know recently and didn't find it to be the Tour de Force that everyone seems to think it is. I obviously missed something!
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The first book I have actually thrown away! Sept. 28 2009
By T. Bartolomei - Published on Amazon.com
What a shambles this book is! There are three parts, basically. The first part is somewhat interesting as a family relationship builds, though it is weak overall. The center part about the Danish involvement in World War II is utterly fascinating and written to entice. The last part is a completely boring pedestrian mess! It's as if the writer just gave up after the WWII section and was forced to just keep writing about family members, basically listing a bunch of things that happened without any interest in the characters themselves. Then the last three chapters, which are completely out of sync with the storyline, are just thrown at us...attempting to explain a few bland statements made throughout the book.

As an avid reader of about 20 books a year, I normally pass books on to others to read when I'm done, but I would NEVER torture anyone I care about by handing them this book to read. So I threw it out when I finished. What a waste of time and paper! And the sad thing is, if you got rid of the first part and the last part of the book, you'd have a thoroughly fascinating novel about the Danish involvement in WWII. THAT by itself would be the only thing worth reading. How sad that THAT intriguing story got bogged down surrounded by a bunch of rubbish!

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