After the smash-success Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen followed it up with At the Water’s Edge, a historical fiction novel set during World War II. Maddie Hyde and her husband, Ellis, are disowned by his rich parents at the same time that World War II is raging across Europe and Asia. Ellis decides that they must go to Scotland and find the Loch Ness Monster (and world-wide fame) to restore his family’s honor, gain back his father’s love, and reinstate his finances in one fell swoop.
The best part of this novel is the setting and historical context, since Gruen captures fascinating details day-to-day life in Scotland during the war, such as rationing, blackouts, air raid shelters, and more. Rather than being a catalog of war, it showcases the everyday life of regular people, which is to this novel’s benefit. However, the three main characters are intensely unlikeable, at least until later in the narrative. Maddie, Ellis, and their friend Hank start the book off as the most spoiled and juvenile characters you will ever read about. Of the three of them, Maddie grows into a better person as the novel progresses. The payoff for Maddie’s change of heart is quite satisfying, but the reader must wade through irritating characters first. Keep reading to the end, and your reward is a sweet romance and comeuppance for the villain, all wrapped in a fascinating setting and time period.
Review by Shannon Wood
Adult Services Librarian
Nordonia Hills Branch Library