Hi guys! I’m excited to talk about the lovely Sara Gruen’s new novel, At the Water’s Edge. As a huge fan of Sara’s Water for Elephants, I cracked open this new book with high expectations and was not disappointed.
From the publisher:
In this new novel from the author of Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen again demonstrates her talent for creating spellbinding period pieces. Madeline Hyde, a young socialite from Philadelphia, reluctantly follows her husband and their best friend to the tiny village of Drumnadrochit in search of the Loch Ness monster — at the same time that a very real monster, Hitler, wages war against the Allied Forces. Despite Germany warplanes flying overhead and scarce food rations (and even scarcer stockings) what Maddie discovers — about the larger world and about herself — through the unlikely friendships she discovers with the villagers, opens her eyes not only to the dark forces that exist around her but to the beauty and surprising possibilities as well.
I adored this book. It’s a gorgeously written page-turner that delivers on numerous fronts: adventure, supernatural, romance. Historical fiction is a favourite genre of mine and this was impeccably researched. The story is chock full of war time details like rationing, moral-boosting, and the constant threat of bombing. Beyond that, the characters are incredibly, vividly, drawn. They jump off the page and had me dream casting for the (hopefully inevitable) film adaptation before I’d read the last page.
At the Water’s Edge opens with a jarring, seemingly unconnected, event. This small-village tragedy is then sharply juxtaposed with Maddie, her husband Ellis, and pal Hank, partying it up, back in America, in war-oblivious high society. Things quickly spiral out of control for the trio and we are thrown into a barely controlled chaos with Maddie, empathising with her as she is humiliated, bullied and dragged across the U-boat infested ocean.
Maddie is a heroine you can root for. She has secrets that reveal themselves as the story unfolds; what you see is definitely not what you get with Maddie. Watching her develop, grow stronger and smarter, adapt to life in the village after her initial culture shock, is just one of the joys of the story.
I also enjoyed the supernatural elements in At the Water’s Edge. It blends seamlessly into the real world of rural Scotland…exactly the way it should! Beyond Nessie hunting, the supernatural is handled with a deft touch, with the Scottish locals’ matter of fact acceptance.
The writing is lush and evocative, swinging the narrative between beautiful scenery, touching interactions and stark, shocking, bursts of horror. The pace is perfect, exhilarating escapism. I was deeply connected to these characters, the fun kind of reading where you talk to the book like they can hear you and wish you could take them by the shoulders and give them a shake.
There is romance but it blooms slowly and, for me, isn’t the most important thread of the story. I can’t even really discuss that thread without giving too much away. Besides, Maddie’s journey is so much more than romance. But then again, the romance is impossible without her personal growth. Forgive my philosophizing, lol, this story really got under my skin.
A major theme is monsters. Sara Gruen’s beautiful prose urges the reader to consider all kinds of monsters, whether they be loch bound, leading an army, or somewhat closer to home.
This beautiful book reminded me of a few of my favourite things. This is a quirk of my own mind, not a reflection on the author’s work; I always relate things to other things. That said, I think fans of the following will love At the Water’s Edge: The Great Gatsby, Maeve Binchy novels, Downton Abbey, Outlander, the Loch Ness monster, Bomb Girls and even Jane Eyre.
I rated At the Water’s Edge five full stars on Goodreads and placed it on my “I reread this one” shelf. The book releases tomorrow and I can’t wait to hear what you guys think!