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We That Are Left: Book summary and reviews of We That Are Left by Clare Clark

We That Are Left

by Clare Clark

We That Are Left by Clare Clark X
We That Are Left by Clare Clark
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  • Published Oct 2015
    464 pages
    Genre: Historical Fiction

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Book Summary

The captivating story of two sisters born into privilege, who are forced to make their way in a world turned upside down by war, and the man who, against all expectation, transforms them both.

It is 1910. Jessica and Phyllis Melville have grown up at Ellinghurst, their family estate. A headstrong beauty, Jessica longs for London — the glitter and glamor of debutante life — while bookish Phyllis dreams in vain of attending the university. Neither girl questions that it is Theo, their adored brother, whom their mother loves best. Theo eclipses everyone around him, including diffident Oskar Grunewald — a prodigy in the rapidly evolving fields of math and physics — who with his mother is a frequent visitor to Ellinghurst. Fascinated by the house but alternately tormented and ignored by the Melville children, Oskar seeks refuge in Ellinghurst's enormous library. 

Over the next decade, as the Great War devastates and reshapes their world, the sisters come of age in a country unrecognizable from the idylls of their youth. As they struggle to forge new paths in a world that no longer plays by the old rules, Oskar's life becomes entwined with theirs once again, in ways that will change all of their futures forever. 

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. As in Downton Abbey , Ellinghurst Castle suffers a reversal of fortunes after the war, and like Vera Brittain in Testament of Youth and so many other young women of her generation, Jessica and Phyllis see their postwar choices narrowed and their bright futures dimmed. Clark's wonderful new novel deserves as much love and attention as those two beloved works." - Library Journal

"Deftly evoking the faded glory of the British gentry while weaving an intricate love story with an unlikely twist, acclaimed English writer Clark (Beautiful Lies, 2012) presents a historically rich, psychologically rewarding tale of heritage and romance." - Booklist

"Vivid, layered, and provocative period drama about the trade-offs of backing tradition versus letting go." - Kirkus

This information about We That Are Left was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

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Jane D. (Cincinnati, OH)

We That Are Left - Clare Clark
If you like historical fiction, an entertaining story and unusual characters then this might be the book for you. The authors packs quite a story in the 10 year span of 1910-1920. Clare Clark does a masterful job of fleshing out her characters from the " infuriating weirdo " Oskar to the totally self absorbed and hateful Jessica and many more.

The characters are nicely tied together by their emotional connection to the Melville family estate and what will become of it as it passes on to the next generation and therein lies the richness of the plot. Wrapped around it are the sacrifices that war requires and the toll it takes.

None of the characters end up getting what they want but that does not detract from the enjoyment of the book. The " great war changes everything they knew of their world and and of the country of their youth."

I had recently enjoyed reading The Nightingale and also the Scent of Triumph which were about WW II and Clark's book about WW I was a nice way to learn more about that war .

Christine B. (St. Paul, MN)

Don't Miss This Book!
I absolutely loved this book. The prose is beautiful and so lovingly captures the Melville family. Their lives are so intertwined in ways they could hardly imagine. I found myself rooting for one character- then another- then another. Each alone was rather uncomplicated and precise in their desires, but together they were so daring and complex. I think this book would garner great discussion for any book club. Thanks for letting me enjoy it.

MaryH

The Rules of Inheritance
This story is seductive. The characters slowly evolve. It was easy to become involved in the younger generation and their awakening to the new reality around them. The old rules that govern inheritance, marriage and lineage soon are tested with Oscar, Jessica and Phyllis. I was surprised by the ending of the novel, even my expectations were shaken when the true colors of each person revealed that family ties may prove more important than personal independence.

Mary B. (St Paul, MN)

We That Are Left
I would have given the book a 4.5 rating if that had been a choice. I enjoyed the book very much but a few times I felt it moved to slowly. The historical aspects of life before and after WW1 I found very interesting, not only the changes in society but also the science aspects that are being discussed and discovered. Anyone who is a Downton Abbey fan, which I am, would probably
enjoy this book. This book stayed on my mind long after I finished it.

Marion W. (Issaquah, WA)

The Revelatory Years
We've all read many novels set during World War I, but what of its aftermath and the effects on British society? At the heart of this story is Ellinghurst, a stately home, with all the attendant concerns about maintenance, inheritance now that the heir is gone, and women acting in ways contrary to their time-sanctioned roles.

As heirs died on the battlefields of Europe, servants concomitantly abandoned their "places", women strove for freedoms, and there was a rise in spiritualism as the living ("We That Are Left") attempted to communicate with the dead.
This is a very atmospheric book,with details about clothing, food, furniture, etc.; the author works on local history projects so gets much of her information about social history from first-hand accounts. Quirky characters
add to the interest. It's a long read, over 400 pages, but holds one's attention; "Downton Abbey" fans especially will appreciate it.

Molly K. (San Jose, CA)

We That Are Left Out
I wanted to like this story more than I did.

Clare Clark writes about complex characters whose lives come together around the disposition of a grand, but decaying, estate in post WWI England. The story is well developed as each character's motives and interests are explored and revealed in a series of encounters over a period of ten years.

The writing is generally excellent. Unfortunately there are some passages that seem to run on forever, along with paragraphs that could have been left out entirely. A number of times I found myself skimming over pages looking for the next encounter.

And, in the end, as in the beginning, the characters seemed isolated and self-absorbed, having forged no real connections with each other. I was reading a soap opera. And, come to think of it, the title of the book is an apt title for a soap opera.

...9 more reader reviews

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Author Information

Clare Clark Author Biography

Chris Clark

Clare read History at Trinity College, Cambridge, where she was a Senior Scholar. She graduated with a Double First.

She then spent eleven years in advertising, first at Saatchi & Saatchi and then, as a board director, at Bartle Bogle Hegarty, working both in London and New York.

Her first novel, The Great Stink, was published by Viking in 2005 after a five-way auction: critically acclaimed on both sides of the Atlantic, The Great Stink was long-listed for the Orange Prize, won the Pendleton May First Novel award in the UK and the Quality Paperback Book Club New Voices award in the USA. It was a Washington Post Best Book of the Year.

Since then The Great Stink has been translated into five languages. A film of the novel is currently in development.

She has ...

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