Literary Quote of the Month

“For poems are not, as people think, simply emotions (one has emotions early enough)—they are experiences,” … Rilke, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge.

Monday, January 12, 2015

At the Water's Edge by Sara Gruen… A Review

When I first downloaded At The Water's Edge by Sara Gruen, I only meant to read a little to get a feel for the story, since I was already reading something else.  BUT, I could not stop! I was immediately swept away to a small village in the Scottish Highlands called Drumnadrochit, and the year was 1942. I was in a small cemetery looking at a black granite headstone with two names - Captain Angus Grant and Agnes Mairi Grant, newborn daughter of Captain Angus and his wife, Mairi. It was WWII and the war had taken many loved ones by now. Captain Grant was one of those casualties, but they only knew the month and the year of his death, they did not know the exact day. And poor Agnes was stillborn. Mairi was heartbroken, and so was I…

Fast forward to January, 1945. This is where the story really begins. We meet 3 wealthy spoiled young Americans, Hank, Ellis and Maddie going on an adventure to the same small village in Scotland to find proof of The Loch Ness Monster. The dynamics of these three people are that Hank and Ellis are best friends, almost inseparable, and Maddie, who won the hearts of both Hank and Ellis the summer she graduated boarding school, is Ellis' wife. As the story unfolds, we learn that Hank and Ellis were rejected by the army, so they did not have to serve in battle. This is a sore spot with Ellis' father, who served honorably and basically thinks his son a coward. But the three of them, Hank, Ellis and Maddie, spend their days (and evenings) carelessly drinking, partying and untouched by the war… until, after a particularly embarrassing evening of drinking, and Ellis' parents receiving phone call after phone call, things change. A huge fight ensues, insults are thrown back and forth until the ultimate insult… Ellis tells his father that the family could not be any more embarrassed than by his father faking those Nessie photos. Faking Nessie photos?! Yes...

Years before, after the Great War, Ellis' father became obsessed with The Loch Ness Monster. He traveled to Drumnadrochit, where the famed beast lived, researched and hunted it down. He became famous for photographing it, Scotland yard requested he not harm it, and he became a celebrity… but then the rumors started that he faked the photographs. He became a laughing stock. He quietly went back home.

So, as a result of the "ultimate" insult, Ellis & Maddie get thrown out of the house, Ellis' allowance is cut, and life is not going to be as easy as it once was… until Ellis and Hank hatch a plan to get back in the good graces of Ellis' father… They will find The Loch Nest monster, photograph it and prove that it's real, thus saving Ellis's father from disgrace, proving Ellis is not a coward and becoming the much loved son again. This is how we find Hank, Ellis and Maddie, who reluctantly agrees, in Scotland.

But everything I've just told you is a very very small part of the story. Sara Gruen weaves this back story into a haunting tale of love, loss and compassion. And she does this with not only a great plot, but by her ability to create such depth in her characters and their surroundings that the pages of the book disappear and you are left standing in Drumnadrochit, in the Scottish Highlands. We feel how it is to live in a small village, trying to survive the shortages of food and small comforts like warmth. We feel the pain of loss due to our men going to war. And we can feel the need to grasp for happiness when it fleetingly appears. Maddie is the backbone to this story, and we witness, through her eyes and heart, not only the gripping story of Drumnadrochit, but the story of a young woman growing within herself, her marriage and learning about the world around her that her privileged life never allowed her to see before.

I loved this book! The story, the characters, the way the characters interacted with one another, the friendships, the way Ellis, Hank and Maddie discovered that money wasn't everything and war equals out everyone. But my favorite part of the story was Maddie's awakening. Loved her and loved her voice in the story.

Not only will you be at the water's edge, but you'll be at the edge of your seat with this haunting tale and one woman's journey to self discovery. If you're a fan of historical fiction, women's fiction or just a Sara Gruen fan, READ this book! Sara Gruen knows how to write historical fiction!

At the Water's Edge by Sara Gruen will be released March 31, 2015 by Random House and Spiegel & Grau, a Random House imprint. I want to thank the publishers for the eGalley to review! I received this eGalley for my unbiased review.

1 comment:

thecuecard said...

Sounds like an interesting premise. I like the setting on the Scottish highlands. I read her novel Water for Elephants and probably would like this one as well. thanks for letting me know it's coming out!

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