My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I wanted to give this book five stars, but it didn't capture me the same way Major Pettigrew did. However, it's a moving, thoughtful novel about the beginning of World War I, the War to End All Wars.
What the war ended was a generation of young men in Britain and Europe, along with a sizable contingent of ANZAC troops, and at the end, Americans. People went into the war in England blithely thinking it would be a short conflict, and no one could imagine the carnage by war's end. Simonson captures the joys and frustrations--mostly the latter--of small town English life as we see the conflict mostly unfold from the village of Rye. The petty squabbles, the backbiting and gossip and judging others, it's all on display. But there are also moments of beauty and joy, and good people doing the right thing.
While Simonson's fans may feel a slight disappointment, The Summer Before the War is a book that deserves to be judged on its own merits as a portrayal of a world 100 years gone beneath fields of poppies.
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