Day 708: At the Water’s Edge

Cover for At the Water's EdgeMaddy, Ellis, and Hank make a riotous threesome as they party and caper their way through Philadelphia high society. It is World War II, but both Ellis and Hank are classified 4F. In any case, taking upon any adult responsibility doesn’t seem to be in their plans. Maddy and Ellis Hyde are married, but they live with Ellis’ parents. Hank has a girlfriend but has shown no interest in marrying Violet.

After a particularly drunken New Year’s Eve, Ellis’ father throws Ellis and Maddy out of the house to fend for themselves and cuts Ellis’ allowance. To get back into the good graces of Mr. Hyde, Ellis and Hank come up with a hare-brained scheme. Long ago, Mr. Hyde went to Loch Ness to look for the monster. He claimed to have found it and circulated photos. But they were revealed as fakes. Ellis thinks if they can find the monster and take legitimate pictures of it, he can revive the family name and make his family proud.

But getting to Scotland during wartime poses problems. Hank finally gets them on a freighter, but when their ship rescues some men whose vessel was torpedoed, Maddy begins to understand the horrors of war. Arriving at their destination, she is the only one of the three who seems to understand how ridiculous their presence as tourists is during this difficult time. The three know nothing of ration cards, air raids, or war casualties. And the men’s boorish attitude about the lack of conveniences at the inn doesn’t help.

Maddy settles in and gets to know the villagers, but she is soon disturbed by how much Ellis and Hank are drinking and how many of Maddy’s “nerve pills” Ellis takes. Maddy herself has only ever taken one.

link to NetgalleyAlthough dealing with another period and setting, Gruen is covering some of the same ground as in Water for Elephants. She clearly enjoys the wives in distress theme. Still, after I experienced an initial distaste for all three main characters, Maddy grew on me with her evolving sensitivity and efforts to help the villagers. I enjoyed this novel and think it makes a good light historical romance. Gruen periodically gives us details of the war and does a fair job of evoking the atmosphere of a small pub, where everyone nightly listens to the war news.

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10 thoughts on “Day 708: At the Water’s Edge

  1. Naomi May 22, 2015 / 12:38 pm

    A good light historical romance is a good way to describe it – I had a hard time categorizing this book in my review. I did enjoy it, but felt like it wasn’t a completely serious book, which threw me off after Water For Elephants (which I remember as being quite sad, although it was a while ago that I read it). The best part of the book, for me, was watching the men make complete fools of themselves. I couldn’t decide what I thought of the end – it seemed too good to be true, like a romance.

    • whatmeread May 22, 2015 / 12:42 pm

      The end was definitely too good to be true, after setting us up to expect a real fight. I’m not sure why Water for Elephants seemed more substantial, because it has such a similar plot, but I agree with that. Maybe I didn’t think that Ellis could do what he threatened because they were in Scotland and I figured all of Maddie’s village friends could testify for her. I’m not sure. But despite its similarities, I felt it was very light. Possibly because Ellis, although a threat, was gone most of the time.

      • Naomi May 22, 2015 / 2:38 pm

        I didn’t ever feel very worried for Maddie, either. It felt like the kind of book that would turn out okay in the end.

      • whatmeread May 22, 2015 / 2:39 pm

        Yeah, maybe that was a fault in the novel, though. Maybe we should have felt more peril. She seemed more in danger from anorexia than from Ellis.

      • Naomi May 22, 2015 / 3:07 pm

        Ha ha! I know – I felt preoccupied with how little she was eating. But, then again, who wants to eat drawer porridge?

      • whatmeread May 22, 2015 / 3:09 pm

        I don’t know what that is, but it sure didn’t sound good.

    • whatmeread May 22, 2015 / 12:44 pm

      Maybe it was the animal in peril plot that made Water for Elephants sadder. Wasn’t the animal being beaten by the husband?

      • Naomi May 22, 2015 / 2:36 pm

        I agree – I think the treatment of the animals (the elephant, especially) is what made Water For Elephants so sad, for me.

  2. TJ @ MyBookStrings May 22, 2015 / 1:17 pm

    I liked Gruen’s style in Water for Elephants (where yes, the animal was beaten by the husband), but if the theme is similar, I am not entirely convinced that I need to read this book. But I’ll keep it in mind for summer vacation…

  3. whatmeread May 22, 2015 / 1:20 pm

    It’s quite a bit different. I think what Naomi and I are saying is that Ellis, who at first seems find, ends up threatening Maddie, which is similar to the other book, but for other reasons. Otherwise, it’s quite a bit different in atmosphere. It has a lighter feel to it despite being written about WW II. Summer vacation might be the perfect time for it.

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