Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Summer Before the War: Friday, May 20 2016

The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson was the choice for the last month by a member of my Book Group. It's not a book I would have read otherwise.

Set in a small English village, the novel begins in what by all accounts was an unusually beautiful summer. It depicts the idyllic world of the middle class of England of that time. Everyone was enjoying the summer and in denial that a war could be looming over the horizon. The fact that refugees arrive from Belgium brings with it intimation of the gathering clouds.

War breaks out towards the end of July, and men are off to join the forces. The agonies of the war are displayed, and the effects on everyone. It's a bit like Downton Abbey, but in a different section of society. After the war, life changes and moves on.

I didn't learn anything I didn't already know from this book. It was a pleasant read, but a bit too wordy for my taste. I prefer action and getting to the point. Probably a suitable book to read if one has spare time to spend. Good for the beach, or a holiday. Good as a diversion. I have to admit I skipped through the last half. I found that way I could keep up with the story without being bothered by too many useless words. I am a speed reader so used to doing this. I rarely savour the actual writing, but appreciate the modern North American use of English which gets straight to the point in as few words as possible.

Helen Simonson was born in England and grew up in a village such as she has depicted. She has lived in the United States since adulthood. I was quite surprised to learn that she was English, born and brought up in England. It seemed to me that she was writing from outside the world she was depicting. Two English women in our Group were of the opinion that she didn't get that world quite correctly. She was writing about it as if from afar. Pleasant book: not great literature.

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