• Joan Fernandez

The Summer Before the War

By Helen Simonson

Leisurely pace turns taunt

I want to visit East Sussex, only back in time before 1914, as Simonson languorously presents it with blue skies, witty conversations, innocence. It’s the perfect backdrop to get the reader to love the inhabitants and set us up to gradually feel the tension of an impending World War I. These endearing characters are naively unaware that their idealistic existence is about to be punctured.


This story is unfolded with such elegance. Like clouds drifting across a clear sky, signs of trouble begin to pop up as news of the war, refugees and shortages mar their small-town concerns and change their hearts. The love that Simonson feels for this area and her characters comes right through the page. Similar to Simonson’s earlier book, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand , she creates characters that stay with you.

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