Rummanah Aasi
 Unlike many readers I did not fall in love with Water for Elephants, but I did like Sara Gruen's writing style and wanted to give her latest book, At the Water's Edge, a shot. Her latest book's premise sounds promising and it gave me a Downton Abbey vibe set in Scotland.

Description: After embarrassing themselves at the social event of the year in high society Philadelphia on New Year’s Eve of 1942, Maddie and Ellis Hyde are cut off financially by Ellis’s father, a former army Colonel who is already embarrassed by his son’s inability to serve in WWII due to his being colorblind. To Maddie’s horror, Ellis decides that the only way to regain his father’s favor is to succeed in a venture his father attempted and very publicly failed at: he will hunt the famous Loch Ness monster and when he finds it he will restore his father’s name and return to his father’s good graces (and pocketbook). Joined by their friend Hank, a wealthy socialite, the three make their way to Scotland in the midst of war. Each day the two men go off to hunt the monster, while another monster, Hitler, is devastating Europe. And Maddie, now alone in a foreign country, must begin to figure out who she is and what she wants.

Review: Maddie, her husband Ellis, and their very close friend Hank live a luxurious life filled with parties and leisure, safe in their own bumble while World War II is raging on. Hank and Ellis are  exempt from the battle due to one of the men being colorblind and other being "flat-footed," which I never heard of before I read this book. After disgracing their aristocratic family by being overly drunk at a social event, all three characters are exiled to Scotland to find the Loch Ness Monster to restore their honor.
  Readers interested in the actual search for Loch Ness Monster will be disappointed as this aspect of the story becomes more of a plot device that boils up when it is convenient for the plot, but otherwise simmers noiselessly in the background. Much more of the story is dedicated to Maddie's self awakening and the relationships between her and Ellis, Hank, and the people they meet at the inn they stay at in Scotland who are, in my opinion, the stars of the book. Personally, I preferred watching Maddie grow from a spoiled, self centered, one dimensional woman to a three dimensional person who found her voice and grew a backbone much more than the search for the Loch Ness Monster. Her journey is well done and believable for the most part, but it is uneven when it comes to the other subplot of the story. 

  In addition to Maddie bursting out of her own bubble, we are also introduced to the lives of the Scottish residents who also face a variety of domestic tragedy such as  death and divorce. The women of the story come alive and have a strong presence, but I wished the male characters were just as nuanced. For example, Maddie's husband, Ellis, is a cad and doesn't have any additional layers to his characters while their friend Hank is an overt philander. Some of Scottish men we meet aren't any better. 
  The story veers off a few times on the melodramatic with Maddie fainting a few times and the ending that is solved too conveniently and in part takes away the strength of Maddie's journey. There are a few times where Gruen info dumps wartime statistics for paragraphs at a time that aren't particularly relevant to the specific story she's telling. Overall I would recommend At Water's Edge if you are looking for a historical beach read or a lazy Sunday read.

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: There is some language, domestic violence, and small sexual situations. Recommended for mature teens and adults.

If you like this book try: Headmaster's Wager by Vincent Lam, The Last Time I Saw Paris by Lynn Sheene
5 Responses
  1. Kindlemom Says:

    I had no idea she even had another book out! I don't know how I missed it. I did like Water for Elephants but I'm not sure if this one would be for me or not based on your review. Sometimes these type of reads can be harder one.
    I loved your honest review though, thank you so much!

  2. I loved the characters and the writing. I didn't get the "info dump" impression that you did. It's definitely not action packed, but like you said a good "lazy Sunday read." Great thoughts.

  3. I have this book, but I shelved it, and I am going to continue to keep it on the shelf. I was not a fan of Water for Elephants either, and after reading your review, I don't think I would like this one either, so far the reviews are so hot for this book.

  4. I wasn't the biggest fan of LIKE WATER FOR ELEPHANTS either. I liked it better after we discussed it in book club. This book sounds good but not good enough to tempt me.

  5. Aw... to bad this didn't wow you, but at least you are entertained. Don't think this one is for me, but I think I know someone who this book would appeal.

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