Monday, October 17, 2016

The Summer Before the War

The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson  479 pp.

While this story begins before the start of World War I, it encompasses a large part of the war also, so I am rather perplexed by the title. In 1914, young, well educated, and essentially penniless Beatrice Nash arrives in the East Sussex town of Rye to become an outrageous oddity, a woman Latin teacher at the local school. Such a thing has not been experienced in this small town with an overactive gossip machine. Beatrice just wants to teach her students and spend her free time writing. Soon the gossips have much more interesting fodder in the Belgian refugees that are brought in after Germany invades their country.  Beatrice develops an interest in the son of her sponsor, a young man who is an aspiring surgeon, currently enamored of his mentor's daughter. What begins as a light story of small town residents and class differences and prejudice turns darker with the advent of the war. Not a family, rich or poor, is left unscathed by the conflict. This novel is a well written and highly detailed tale of an important part of England's history.

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