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Good Literature for Children & Adults

At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen


Sara Gruen has written a number of novels, her most well known the bestselling Water for Elephants published in 2006.

At the Water’s Edge published this spring will probably be another bestseller for this accomplished author. The novel begins in the United States, in the 1940s, with a trio of friends Ellis and Maddie Hyde, and Hank, all living a very “Great Gatsby-ish” lifestyle, party going, drinking themselves into a stupor, sleeping until noon and doing it all over again.

Though the United States has entered the war these two young men have been exempted from service, one flat footed and one colour blind. All are wealthy and all are in disgrace after a night of drinking and inappropriate behavior, especially Ellis. His father, Col. Hyde is also disgraced, for having faked “proof” of a sighting of the Loch Ness Monster some years earlier.

Ellis and Hank decide they will go to Scotland to prove the existence of this monster and redeem both their own and the Colonel’s reputation. Maddie has no choice but to go along as they abscond, without leaving word of their plans with their families. They hitch a lift across the Atlantic on a troop ship heading for Scotland - and the adventure begins.

For Hank and Ellis the drinking never stops, and they have a complete and utter lack of awareness of anyone but themselves. For Maddie it is an awakening. For the first time in her life she see the reality of the war, the injured soldiers and the rationing and the difficult lives of those living with war time restrictions in Great Britain.

Brought up in “obscene” wealth Maddie was the only child of an unhappy couple, her marriage to Ellis an escape, but a mistake that has turned out to be even more of a trap than her life with her parents.

It is January 1945 when they arrive in Scotland, and take up residence in a local pub near Loch Ness. The locals listen to Lord Haw-Haw on Radio Luxembourg, and during an air raid they flee to the Anderson shelter as the bombs drop. Ellis and Hank go off monster hunting each day.

The proprietor and the women working at the pub and hotel gradually become more important to Maddie than her husband and her life in America. Theirs is a life of honest work and she knows genuine friendship – and love – for the first time in her life. Leaving her in a very difficult situation.

The setting in the Scottish Highlands is delightful, the characters are all appealing and fully developed and realized, and though it does not spoil the novel completely, there are a few eye-rolling moments – think Highlander Romance novels. And, yes, it is all a little too predictable – but still I suspect At the Water’s Edge will be one of our best selling books this spring and summer. Despite its faults I think you’ll enjoy this book as just a good read – a novel to satisfactorily pass the time on a plane or a rainy day at the cottage.


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