The Summer Before the War
New York Times-bestselling author Helen Simonson returns with a splendid historical novel full of the same wit, romance and insight into the manners and morals of small-town British life as her beloved Major Pettigrew's Last Stand.
It's the summer of 1914 and life in the sleepy village of Rye, England is about to take an interesting turn. Agatha Kent, a canny force for progress, is expecting an unusual candidate to be the school's Latin teacher: Beatrice Nash, a young woman of good breeding in search of a position after the death of her father. (Never has there been a woman Latin teacher.) Agatha's nephews, meanwhile, have come to spend the summer months, as always, both with dreams of their own: Daniel, the poet, to publish a literary journal in Paris, and Hugh, to graduate from medical studies and marry his surgeon's daughter thus inheriting a lucrative practice. But then Hugh is sent to pick up Beatrice from the train station and life, of course, changes. As with Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, the quintessential English village becomes the stage on which entrenched tradition, class, ignorance, family ties and love play out. Here, these characters and others we come to love and root for become characters we hope and pray for when the shadow of the Great War looms ever closer to home.
#1 National Bestseller
New York Times Bestseller
"Within the framework of a wartime love story, Simonson captures the contradictions of small-town life perfectly: the idyllic pastimes, the overly involved neighbors, the hints at secrets and unspoken truths. . . . [this] journey is a thoroughly enjoyable, addictively readable one." —Entertainment Weekly
"A dash of Downton-esque wit and gossip, a sprinkling of Virginia Woolf feminism and a cupful of colorful characters, à la Forster's A Room With a View. . . . [A] rewarding and moving novel." —USA Today
"Readers who loved Helen Simonson's debut novel and made it an international bestseller largely by word of mouth also will love her second novel. . . . Simonson shows that the promise she showed in her debut was real. She's so clever, literate, erudite and sensitive." —The Winnipeg Free Press
"Simonson is back with The Summer Before the War, a gentle comedy of provincial manners that rivals her first in the charm department." —NPR Books
"[The Summer Before the War] is a delightful story about nontraditional romantic relationships, class snobbery and the everybody-knows-everybody complications of living in a small community. . . . The novel's amusing dialogue enlivens its compelling story line and is sure to please fans of Downton Abbey." —The Washington Post
"In this radiant follow-up to Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, Helen Simonson has so outdone herself I found myself turning pages with increasing awe as well as pleasure. The provincial village of Rye, Sussex in the days just before and after the Great War is so vividly drawn it fairly vibrates—but it’s the depth and sensitivity with which Simonson weighs the steep costs and delicate bonds of wartime—and not just for the young men in the trenches, but for every changed life and heart—that reveals the full mastery of her storytelling. Like a Jane Austen or Henry James for our day and age, Simonson is that good, and The Summer Before the War is nothing short of a treasure." —Paula McLain, author of The Paris Wife and Circling the Sun
"At once haunting and effervescent, The Summer Before the War demonstrates the sure hand of a master. Simonson’s characters enchant us, her English countryside beguiles us, and her historical intelligence keeps us at the edge of our seats. This luminous story of a family, a town, and a world in their final moments of innocence is as lingering and lovely as a long summer sunset." —Annie Barrows, author of The Truth According to Us, and co-author of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
"A bright confection of a book. . . . Simonson has an observant eye and a comic touch. . . . This novel is beautifully plotted and morally astute." —Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"This novel is just the ticket for fans of Simonson's debut, Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, and for any reader who enjoys leisurely fiction steeped in the British past." —Booklist