The Summer Before the War Review

Thursday, January 14th 2016

Recently approved to read an ARC, Advance Readers Copy of Random House publication of The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson.  This book is an elegant read, with wonderful  dialogue, gorgeous environment detail of a landscape I can only dream to visit, along with loyal loving characters in conclusion the novel will make you feel like a friend versus a reader. The quick wit or clever banter in dialogue will have laugh at how marvelous rude one can be without losing ones ability of politeness

Theirs are many enriching connections in this novel but I found myself favoring the family home of Agatha Kent’s more than ever. The endearing relationship that Agatha Kent has towards her  opposite in personality nephews is extremely heart-felt. The two nephews; Hugh Grange, a responsible young surgeon whose rather frank in speech in comparison to his spirited poetic cousin, Daniel Bookham, creates a loving bond similar to brotherhood.

This warmth of this family connection is much-needed for Beatrice Nash, since she recently lost her beloved father, thus the ability of independence, while finding herself utterly lonesome until now. Miss Nash is a strong female character, probably a woman before her time whose achievements unfortunately are always being challenged based not on her young age but because of her gender. Nash truly brought out the feminist in me, seeing such a wonderful character having to work twice as hard or have friends twice as clever to make sure her abilities not being over looked by marriage. Even though this loving relationship  in a family setting the unfair balance of social class issues, the lack of women’s freedom without marriage, in addition to educating those with potential for greatness not physical appearance.

When the declaration of war created the attitude of many women found their call to  support the war efforts in rallies, parades, or creating a variety of types of committees to do their patriotic duties. The stress of a nation during war-time did not hide its face in the town, nor did the war stop its creation  of friction between family members, refugees, and community members. It seems that in only war or death that man tends to forget the lines of draw to keep each other separate while relying on one another for help.


The first part of the book I was going to give this book 3.5 stars for being written in such a slow paced. However when I got to the end of the novel I realize that this book is a creeper. It’s like laying in a warm bed with a warm blanket wrapped around you, at first you barely notice how much warmth the blanket is supplying you until some hand begins to cover you leaving you cold, confuse as well as yearning for you covers again.

The romantic feelings between characters are well-developed in a wonderful placed of the era the historical fiction novel. I have to say that the ending broke my heart, we never truly realize how essential a character is until they  away from us. I have this novel 4 stars because of the slow paste at the beginning but I am confident that after its final edit, it will be a smooth romantic read. And what a beautiful ending? *sigh*

Despite the novel not being proofed, I would recommend this book to anyone who’s a fan of PBS Masterpieces Theatre, historical fiction, or read a wonderful novel that focus on the spirit of a family built on  great friendship. The Summer Before the War, is a novel that has the humor of a Jane Austen novel with the intelligent plot of Virginia Woolf. I’m going to stalking my local book store on March 22nd, 2016, to read the published copy of this enchanting romantic historical fiction novel.

About Helen Simonson

Helen Simonson was born in England and spent her teenage years in a small village in East Sussex. A graduate of the London School of Economics with an MFA from Stony Brook Southampton, she is a former travel advertising executive who has lived in America for almost three decades. A longtime resident of Brooklyn, she is married with two sons. Her debut novel, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, was a NY Times bestseller and was published in twenty one countries. Her second novel will be published in March 2016.

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