Book Review: At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen

I am a huge fan of Downton Abbey. The characters (Maggie Smith is by far an acting genius and I’m glad that she is still acting), the way they speak and the clothes of the era.

When I first started reading At the Water’s Edge, by Sara Gruen, the first chapter made me very sad. If I tell you why, I’ll give away some of the plot from later in the book, so I will skip to chapter 2 where we meet Maddie, Ellis and Hank.

Maddie is captivating and beautiful, a lady everyone wants to be around. She’s fun and fashionable in every way. Married to Ellis for just over four years when we are introduced to them, they are still in love and very much in sync with their lives. Maddie and Ellis live with Ellis’ parents still, and are living off the allowance that is provided to them. They seem content with their lives of partying and frivolity, that they still reside there.

However, this is not one big happy family. Ellis’ parents did not approve of the union. They make it quite clear on every encounter that Maddie was a poor choice of a bride (even though Maddie’s family had both wealth and a title). Ellis loves Maddie with all his heart. He is just as rambunctious as Maddie is. They are evenly matched when it comes to wit, so the conversations are not one sided. Then there’s Hank. The socialite playboy that turns the married pair into a trio. Hank has not settled down but there is talk of women that he has had relations with. All tea room chatter, but Maddie knows him well enough that at least half of it may be true.

They live in high society Philadelphia during World War II. With the bombing of Pearl Harbor (read more about this in Graveyards of the Pacific) still fresh, the ladies talk about their efforts on the home front while the able bodied boys prepare for war. Ellis is unable to join, after many failed attempts, because it is discovered he is color blind. Hank is flatfooted so he is kept out of the army as well. Although there is talk that Hank’s affliction is a ruse to keep him out of danger. With Ellis’ father a Colonel in the Great War, Ellis’ inability to serve his country is a black mark against the family.

We enter their lives in a bumpy car ride that is tossing poor Maddie around and making her ill. It’s the middle of the night, Maddie is still seasick and they are heading to where they will rest while on the search for the Loch Ness monster. It was something that all three of them used to joke about, when drinking of course. Ellis’ family had been disgraced on the matter when the pictures that his father took of Nessie were questioned, and the experts touted them as fakes.

Wanting to win back some favor from his parents and notoriety for his own accomplishments, Ellis convinces them all to embark on the journey with them, and the three set out across the Atlantic at a time when German U-Boats infest the waters. Do they find Nessie? Will Hank settle down? The book draws you forward with the intermingling of the Have’s and the Have Not’s.

I didn’t care too much for Water For Elephants (a very polarizing book, you either loved it or did not) however I must say that this book has made me a huge Sara Gruen fan. Since reading, I have been telling everyone that I know (and some people I don’t, I had a lovely chat about the book with a lady while I was at my local bookstore) that they have to read this book. I read it in half the time my e-reader said that it would take. With Water for Elephants having already been made a movie back in 2011 with a star studded cast, I can see At the Water’s Edge being optioned for a movie.

With the craze of Downton, I was surprised that it hadn’t been optioned already. I will say that this book is newly published, only coming out on March 31, 2015. But the excitement of the historical dramas will only last so long before a new genre will take hold of our attentions.

I was enchanted with this book and I’m glad that I was encouraged by my mother to read it. (To note she didn’t like either Hank or Ellis. I won’t use the term she used for them because it was very un-lady like). I on the other hand wouldn’t mind having a drink with them at their fancy parties. Oh the stories that they could tell!