Thursday, April 9, 2015

At the Water's Edge by Sara Gruen

"The headstone was modest and hewn of black granite, granite being one of the few things never in short supply in Glenurquhart, even during the present difficulty." Opening Sentence


Synopsis:

In this thrilling new novel from the author of Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen again demonstrates her talent for creating spellbinding period pieces. At the Water’s Edge is a gripping and poignant love story about a privileged young woman’s awakening as she experiences the devastation of World War II in a tiny village in the Scottish Highlands.

After disgracing themselves at a high society New Year’s Eve party in Philadelphia in 1944, Madeline Hyde and her husband, Ellis, are cut off financially by his father, a former army colonel who is already ashamed of his son’s inability to serve in the war. When Ellis and his best friend, Hank, decide that the only way to regain the Colonel’s favor is to succeed where the Colonel very publicly failed—by hunting down the famous Loch Ness monster—Maddie reluctantly follows them across the Atlantic, leaving her sheltered world behind. 

The trio find themselves in a remote village in the Scottish Highlands, where the locals have nothing but contempt for the privileged interlopers. Maddie is left on her own at the isolated inn, where food is rationed, fuel is scarce, and a knock from the postman can bring tragic news. Yet she finds herself falling in love with the stark beauty and subtle magic of the Scottish countryside. Gradually she comes to know the villagers, and the friendships she forms with two young women open her up to a larger world than she knew existed. Maddie begins to see that nothing is as it first appears: the values she holds dear prove unsustainable, and monsters lurk where they are least expected.
As she embraces a fuller sense of who she might be, Maddie becomes aware not only of the dark forces around her, but of life’s beauty and surprising possibilities.

Review by Mirella Patzer

Maddie is married to Ellis who comes from a wealthy family. Hank is Ellis' best friends and the two are inseparable. Because Hank has flat feet and Ellis is color blind, they were not called up to serve in World War II. The Colonel is Ellis' father, and he believes the flat feet and color blindness are just an excuse to escape serving. After a terrible family fight, the trio travel to Scotland deterimined to photograph the Loch Ness Monster, something the Colonel had attempted to do many years prior. In this way, Ellis hopes to reconcile with his father. 

It is when the three arrive in Scotland that matters begin to deteriorate. Ellis and Hank begin to drink very heavily. Maddie is often left alone at the inn where they are staying, where she is an outsider, and there is enmity towards any strangers. The heavy drinking begins to affect Maddie's marriage and Ellis' behavior turns cold and hateful towards her. 

What is strong within this novel is how the characters change and develop over time. All three of the main cast undergo tremendous alterations in personality, motivation, and behavior. Sometimes, the changes happened so swiftly, that it was hard to believe. Having said this, the story is still very engaging and I was fascinated by it. The author writes well and the storyline kept my interest throughout. A little bit on the dark side, it has a very rich plot and strong characterization. A very enjoyable story. 


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