Thursday, 14 July 2016

The Summer Before the War - Helen Simonson

THIS IS MY FAVOURITE BOOK THIS YEAR!!!!!

One hundred percent, my favourite book for 2016, and I've read a few! I am so excited about this book, it's ridiculous. I have sold so many that we have to keep getting them in. Back up the truck, I say. I've put numerous books into customer's hands, but when they ask me, "What's your favourite book?" I come alive and give them this one! Ssssomebody ssstop me! Ha ha...

      
Australian cover             &          Everywhere else's cover


Oh my goodness. I have not read Helen's other book, Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, and that's one of the things I love about my job. I so often come into a book not having read anything else by a well-known author and get to make my own judgements based upon their latest offering. Taste is highly subjective and opinions can be so dreadfully unreliable.

What's not to love about this book? Oh my goodness! Where do I start? I adored the prose, Positively ADORED it. There is such an atmosphere of light about this book, Helen conveys so perfectly the utter naivety of the era, the cheery optimism, before people knew what havoc war could really create on the souls of those involved with its ugliness.

For once an author gives a true portrayal of sentiments that belong to a time and place forever lost to humanity. The heroine is under the financial control of her peers and family counterparts, unable to rise except through her own hardship. There is no 'magic wand'; she simply must endure.

The men are outrageously good, mortified at the prospect of seeing an ankle, willing to protect their ladies from indelicacies as well as pig-headedly (in our modern view) going about their business often without a care for those same women. Such contrasts are beautifully conveyed and true to the time. There's something so Austen-esque about it.

There are moments of shock that occur, moments that had me reeling in my seat and saw to it that the half hour break for lunch was nowhere near enough to keep enjoying this astonishingly good book - I had to take it home and devour it to the end, so SO disappointed when it was over.

I'm not a Downton Abbey viewer (I know, I know... sorry everyone :), but fans would enjoy the simplicity of thinking and honest way Helen has recreated this world. I am loathe to say anything further, lest I endanger your own enjoyment.

Go get a copy, and savour it, because there are lines in this book you'll want to read three times over and linger upon, they are so well-crafted. Do not rush through it. It's just adorable, the characters so memorable that I wish this was a telemovie. It all plays out in the mind's eye with such clarity.

Helen Simonson made my heart sing with this book. No other book this year has resonated so clearly or with such honesty as this one. The words just drew me in and wrapped their siren arms around me, making me linger in the summer before the war, fully aware that life would never be the same.



Even so, I have noticed one thing, at least, that is good. It is good for people to eat, drink, and enjoy their work under the sun during the short life God has given them, and to accept their lot in life. Ecclesiastes 5:18

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