you know, she manages a lot more good putdowns than I ever managed. ES: You have it all there. a delightful story about nontraditional romantic relationships, class snobbery and the everybody-knows-everybody complications of living in a small community.”—The Washington PostThe bestselling author of Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand returns with a breathtaking novel of love on the eve of World War I that reaches far beyond the small English town in which it is set.NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE WASHINGTON POST AND NPR East Sussex, 1914. Because in some tiny and very humble way, I, too, was going to join their ranks. I am editing as I go all the time, and then the next day, if I am writing the next day and not putting it off for a month, I am going back and rereading the day before. ES: At one point, Lady Agatha says, "My dear child, I fear we are all indentured servants of society." Characters bursting with foibles and fortitude. Slow down and settle in with an emotionally resonant story that frames the universal — the search for love, for belonging, for one's own identity — against the specific: an English country village, 1914, the summer before the Great War changes everything. I think we forget to look back at where we came from. They are just people like us. War (originally called Eric Burdon and War) is an American funk-rock ... Eric Burdon and War began playing live shows to audiences throughout Southern California before entering into the studio to record their debut album Eric Burdon Declares "War". HS: I lived near Rye during those influential coming—of—age teenage years, and much of my Saturday job money was spent at the local bookshop, where a special bookcase held the works of these “local” writers. Witty, heart-warming and profoundly moving, The Librarian: The Top 10 Sunday Times Bestseller, The Benefit of Hindsight: Simon Serrailler Book 10, The Giver of Stars: Fall in love with the enchanting Sunday Times bestseller from the author of Me Before You. HS: I think life is a comedy of manners and that people are generally much the same in their ambitions and their prejudices. The four-hour workweek, and maybe we'll escape to an island. I know more than one person who had a parent die, and this was the book they were reading in the hospital. ES: Whom did you tell this to? Javascript is not enabled in your browser. So I say, "I know everything about the water and sewage system of Rye," and I had to edit all that out so as not to bore people. (Mar. So these are the writers that I grew up with. The more I researched, the more I realized I should try to include some of this reality in a world we associate more with garden parties and elegant hats. It’s a cold November morning, the station is windswept and rural, the sky ... London, 1922. So this is three voices instead of one; it's war, which raises the stakes; and throw in the historical research, which means I have to prove that I can do that — or not. Hugh Grange, down from his medical studies, is visiting his Aunt Agatha, who lives with her husband in the small, idyllic coastal town of Rye. Use up arrow (for mozilla firefox browser alt+up arrow) and down arrow (for mozilla firefox browser alt+down arrow) to review and enter to select. ES: I think people are so interesting. VERDICT Simonson's episodic descriptions of life in Rye as the war looms are a good bet for those looking for a relatively gentle World War I-era historical with a touch of romance. Helen Simonson's The Summer Before the War shares the gentle wit and small-town terrain of her bestselling debut, Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, which readers and booksellers alike are still talking about years after it was first published and featured in our Discover Great New Writers program. But recently, a relative of mine at a wedding, he patted me on the back and said, "Feel no pressure about your second book, Helen; everyone knows second books tank." HS: Love has a funny way of sweeping aside prejudice and breaking down barriers. I hope readers will love him in all his obnoxious ego! A pair of suffragettes mildly scandalizes the villagers, but Beatrice is more bedeviled by the politics of her financial dependency. As I say, he was my refuge. This itself—a woman teacher in 1914—is a breach in tradition that foments small-town intrigue amid petticoats and decorated millinery. Do you think this a useful metaphor for England as it goes to war? I was trying to move around thirty-five pages' worth of material. . HS: As a child, what I loved most about books is that they take us to places and times we can not visit ourselves. Something went wrong. 5. Who is your favorite character and what draws you to him or her in particular? Goodreads members who liked this book also liked: The bestselling author of Major Pettigrew's Last Stand returns with a breathtaking novel of love and war that reaches far beyond the small English town in which it is set. . And the more I researched, the more I became aware—-and surprised and horrified—-at how much the war galvanized the cause of women. — Miwa Messer, Director, Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Elizabeth Strout: Really, Helen, when I read this book, I just thought: How did she do this? So I'm curious, because here I am talking to you. When Beatrice Nash arrives with one trunk and several large crates of books, it is clear she is significantly more freethinking—and attractive—than anyone believes a Latin teacher should be. The war effort in the U.K. seemed to be built almost entirely from scratch, and so it was funny that the vast efforts of Britain’s women were still initially considered “amateur” while men received official credit. Casting about for a setting for my second novel, it struck me that perhaps I was now qualified to attempt a bit of transporting. Why are books about war so compelling? ES: Can you tell us a little bit about Mr. Tillingham? The bestselling author of Major Pettigrew's Last Stand returns with a breathtaking novel of love and war that reaches far beyond the small English town in which it is set. Agatha's husband works in the Foreign Office, and she is certain he will ensure that the recent sabre rattling over the Balkans won't come to anything. The time leading up to and into the First World War is intimately and movingly portrayed. HS: Yes, she does. Does this attraction remain for you after reading The Summer Before the War? About The Summer Before the War East Sussex, 1914. Her advocate is the shrewd Agatha Kent, a discreet progressive who’s married to John, a senior official in the military. ES: I read or heard that you said the whole world can be explained in a small town. RHRC: Helen, you published your first book at age forty—five. That would totally terrify me, to write individual scenes. There are relationships that transcend social and cultural barriers. What does a war destroy and what does it burnish in the fire? However, are they both betrayed? The heroine, Beatrice Nash, quickly follows, aboard a train bound for coastal Rye and a job teaching Latin in the village grammar school. She's been a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Orange Prize in England. Since starting a one-woman private investigation agency in 1929 London, she now has a professional office in Fitzroy Square and an assistant, the happy-go…, A charming, irresistible debut novel set in London during World War II about an adventurous young woman who becomes a secret advice columnist—a warm, funny, and enormously moving story for fans of, Brought to Kenya from England as a child and then abandoned by her mother, Beryl Markham is raised by both her father and the native Kipsigis tribe who share his estate. 7. What better refuge, then, than a book? I tried to transport myself back in time, and I hope readers will feel they are walking beside me in Edwardian Sussex. They got to wear pants and drive buses and eat in the street and go abroad without a chaperone . OK, now, I've got to go commune with Mr. Poot, to find some reason that he thinks he's redeemable. Large efforts such as the national system of War Relief Committees and Refugee Aid were all nominally headed by important men, while the bulk of the work was done by the ladies. Of course, that was completely untrue. Daniel I understand. I told everybody, "No- no-no, no pressure, because I'm a mature woman and I have my family and friends and the validation of publication means the second book can hold no terrors for me." She's also blonde and incredibly beautiful, and so just the sort of person that people would latch onto who want to take care of refugees but not face the really bad things that are going on. Enabling JavaScript in your browser will allow you to experience all the features of our site. 2. This luminous story of a family, a town, and a world in their final moments of innocence is as lingering and lovely as a long summer sunset.” HS: Yes, that was the best. One is a rising young surgeon, and the other dreams of becoming a poet. A beautiful book, one of the best I have read in a long time. . Simonson’s writing is restrained but effective, especially when making quiet revelations. 1. It’s a society rich in writers, poets, and women’s movements for social justice and for suffrage. For despite Agatha’s reassurances, the unimaginable is coming. I think it was . Characters whose actions and behaviors reflect our messy modern lives. HS: I am going to say yes, because otherwise there would be no point in her lying in the ditch, looking all fetching with a twisted ankle.

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