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The Summer Before the War

by Helen Simonson

The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson X
The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2016, 496 pages

    Feb 2017, 512 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Megan Shaffer
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There are currently 3 reader reviews for The Summer Before the War
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Power Reviewer

The Summer before the War
What begins as a lovely and genteel story of discrimination against a “professional” woman in an English village just before World War I, quickly becomes a fascinating tale of honor, class, love, discrimination and village life with all its charm and meanness. The characters are delightfully and realistically portrayed. The situations show the class and gender lines in pre-war England. There is humor and pathos, greed and generosity, refinement and pretentiousness, honor and scandal. But above all, it is a well written, engrossing story.
5 of 5 stars
Power Reviewer
Cathryn Conroy

Thin on Plot, But Excellent Writing
This book, while being a very slow read, is rich in the details, manners and the lifestyle of the late Edwardian period just before the outbreak of World War I. I was all set to give it three stars until the last 20 percent of the book when (finally) the plot picks up and something actually happens. That last 20 percent is so good, I've upped my rating to four stars. Still, for all the hype (the author is likened to a modern day Jane Austen), I found it disappointing.

This is a story about the village of Rye in Sussex, England. The little town thrives on gossip--some benign and much malicious--with a strict divide among the classes and ironclad unwritten rules about manners and behavior. So when fiercely independent spinster Beatrice Nash comes to town to teach Latin to the poorer children in the public school, tongues wag. A woman as a TEACHER? Goodness. What is the world coming to? And that is exactly the point. The world, as the good people of Rye know it, is about to change and it will never again be the same. War does that.

Even though it's thin on plot, author Helen Simonson's writing is excellent, the characters are fully developed and the descriptions are vivid.
Marianne Drunm

Not "Major Pettigrew"!
Helen Simonson writes beautifully about subjects I am interested in. Her first novel, "Major Pettigrew's Last Stand," was an understated tour de force. "The Summer Before the War" is not, in my opinion. Although the characters are described so that you can see them and hear them. The story showed promise, but moved along in fits and starts. The ending arrived with a genteel thud. Perhaps if this novel had been written first, I would not have had such high expectations.
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Beyond the Book:
  The Town of Rye

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