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The Summer Before the War: A Novel by [Simonson, Helen]
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The Summer Before the War: A Novel Kindle Edition

3.6 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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Length: 496 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Product Description


#1 National Bestseller
New York Times Bestseller

"Within the framework of a wartime love story, Simonson captures the contradictions of small-town life perfectly: the idyllic pastimes, the overly involved neighbors, the hints at secrets and unspoken truths. . . . [this] journey is a thoroughly enjoyable, addictively readable one." —Entertainment Weekly

"A dash of Downton-esque wit and gossip, a sprinkling of Virginia Woolf feminism and a cupful of colorful characters, à la Forster's A Room With a View. . . . [A] rewarding and moving novel." —USA Today

"Readers who loved Helen Simonson's debut novel and made it an international bestseller largely by word of mouth also will love her second novel. . . . Simonson shows that the promise she showed in her debut was real. She's so clever, literate, erudite and sensitive." —The Winnipeg Free Press

"Simonson is back with The Summer Before the War, a gentle comedy of provincial manners that rivals her first in the charm department." —NPR Books

"[The Summer Before the War] is a delightful story about nontraditional romantic relationships, class snobbery and the everybody-knows-everybody complications of living in a small community. . . . The novel's amusing dialogue enlivens its compelling story line and is sure to please fans of Downton Abbey." —The Washington Post

"In this radiant follow-up to Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, Helen Simonson has so outdone herself I found myself turning pages with increasing awe as well as pleasure. The provincial village of Rye, Sussex in the days just before and after the Great War is so vividly drawn it fairly vibrates—but it’s the depth and sensitivity with which Simonson weighs the steep costs and delicate bonds of wartime—and not just for the young men in the trenches, but for every changed life and heart—that reveals the full mastery of her storytelling. Like a Jane Austen or Henry James for our day and age, Simonson 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
"At once haunting and effervescent, The Summer Before the War demonstrates the sure hand of a master. Simonson’s characters enchant us, her English countryside beguiles us, and her historical intelligence keeps us at the edge of our seats. 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

"A bright confection of a book. . . . Simonson has an observant eye and a comic touch. . . . This novel is beautifully plotted and morally astute." —Kirkus Reviews, starred review

"This novel is just the ticket for fans of Simonson's debut, Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, and for any reader who enjoys leisurely fiction steeped in the British past." —Booklist 

Product Description

New York Times - bestselling author Helen Simonson returns with a splendid historical novel full of the same wit, romance and insight into the manners and morals of small-town British life as her beloved Major Pettigrew's Last Stand.

It's the summer of 1914 and life in the sleepy village of Rye, England is about to take an interesting turn. Agatha Kent, a canny force for progress, is expecting an unusual candidate to be the school's Latin teacher: Beatrice Nash, a young woman of good breeding in search of a position after the death of her father. (Never has there been a woman Latin teacher.) Agatha's nephews, meanwhile, have come to spend the summer months, as always, both with dreams of their own: Daniel, the poet, to publish a literary journal in Paris, and Hugh, to graduate from medical studies and marry his surgeon's daughter thus inheriting a lucrative practice. But then Hugh is sent to pick up Beatrice from the train station and life, of course, changes. As with Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, the quintessential English village becomes the stage on which entrenched tradition, class, ignorance, family ties and love play out. Here, these characters and others we come to love and root for become characters we hope and pray for when the shadow of the Great War looms ever closer to home.

From the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 4301 KB
  • Print Length: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Bond Street Books (March 22 2016)
  • Sold by: Random House Canada, Incorp.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B014BQZ92M
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #10,607 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition
It’s the summer of 1914 in East Sussex, England. Young Beatrice Nash arrives in the small coastal town of Rye, mourning her father’s death and hoping to land a position as a Latin teacher since she is now penniless, but she was raised to think for herself and may stand out in Rye…and not in a good way. Hugh Grange is home from his studies to become a doctor to visit with his uncle, who works in the Foreign Office, and his aunt. Hugh and his cousin befriend the young teacher, helping her make her way in Rye’s social circles.

It is a summer filled with expanding horizons, facing the harsh realities of being a single young woman in late Edwardian England, learning the social steps in a small town, discovering boundaries, stretching boundaries, facing a war and all its pain, and falling in love.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, rooted for the characters, ached for their pain, cheered for their joy. Ms. Simonson has a way of drawing you in to each one’s dilemmas and desires…making you really care about each one. Beautifully written, with attention to details that transport you into the time and the place, The Summer Before the War is a story that will stay with you beyond when you close the cover after the last page is read.

Five stars!

I received an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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Format: Kindle Edition
It is not the summer of ‘42 or even the “summer of the sonne of York,” but it is East Sussex, England, the end of summer in 1914. It is also "The Summer before the War" by Helen Simonson, a novel set in the small costal town of Rye, idyllic that it is. The spectre of World War I, of course, looms over the entire continent.

And what a summer—beautiful, easy-going—with fantastic weather, although many assume that the recent sabre rattling in the Balkans will never amount to anything.

Beatrice Nash arrives at the home of Agatha Kent as, shock of shocks, the new Latin teacher (it’s unheard of that a woman should teach Latin!). Clearly, she is a “woman like no other”—besides teaching Latin she rides a bicycle, and makes no bones about peddling it all over town! Plus, she arrives with several crates of books—she’s a free-thinker and 1914 England simply isn’t ready for such a revolutionary.

Then add a clutch of Agatha’s eccentric nephews, who are there for the summer, and this quickly develops into a romantic interest between Beatrice (who has decided not to marry) and Hugh Grange, one of the nephews, a 24-year-old surgeon, who had earlier planned to propose to another woman.

So, already, this summer, a few days before those famous “guns of August” start deafening our ears, is beginning to experience “liberal change,” more out of necessity than choice. Agatha’s husband John works in the Foreign Office and she is confident that all is well on God’s green earth. Despite Agatha's reassurances, as we know, the unimaginable is coming.

In addition to the inevitable, the book makes an effort to explore the social milieu of the time quite well.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A more complex novel than her first as it ranges from the playful satirical and delightful of the absurdities of the English rural elites to the horror of the battlefield of World War One. If you enjoyed Major Pettigrew's Last will love this her second novel surely destined to be a best seller
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Although I haven't quite finished reading this book I am finding that I am enjoying it more than Major Pettigrew's Last Stand the author's previous book. I really enjoy some of her descriptions of the countryside and describing the Mayor's wife at a party and her hat "almost dusting the chandelier" made me laugh out loud. I like the story line and am finding the book hard to put down.
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I really enjoyed Simonson's first book, Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, so I was eager to read this second book of hers. I found it a bit slow to become engaged (the heroine, Beatrice Nash, is just a little too perfect). But once the war actually starts, the pace picks up and all the characters find their feet. The plots and sub-plots do telegraph themselves early to the reader so there are no real surprises in store. I did wonder if Simonson realized she lifted almost her entire Britannia Rules event from EF Benson's 1935 farce, Mapp and Lucia. But it doesn't really matter: the book is eventually engaging with both funny and sad moments, and is an enjoyable and uncomplicated read.
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Medical student Hugh Grange is visiting his aunt in a small seaside town in Sussex in 1914. Beatrice Nash arrives at the outset of the summer, having recently been hired as the town's new Latin teacher. Just as Beatrice forms a bond with the town and its inhabitants, the summer draws to a close and the world is plunged into war.

I liked this book, but I didn't love it. The love story was clichéd, but it was still interesting to watch it unfold, even though I knew from the beginning how it was going to end. While the principal characters were complex, many of the supporting characters were two-dimensional.

Where the book really shines is in the author's use of language. Simonson knows how to evoke a complete landscape with words. I also appreciated the way she challenged stereotypes - the Roma boy who is a brilliant student; the proud, gentle Belgian refugees.

If you are a fan of historical romance, this one may be for you.
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