Monday, March 30, 2015

Book Review and Giveaway: At the Water's Edge by Sara Gruen

Pages: 368
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: March 31, 2015
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars 

Goodreads says, "In her stunning new novel, Gruen returns to the kind of storytelling she excelled at in Water for Elephants: a historical timeframe in an unusual setting with a moving love story. Think Scottish Downton AbbeyAfter embarrassing themselves at the social event of the year in high society Philadelphia on New Year’s Eve of 1942, Maddie and Ellis Hyde are cut off financially by Ellis’s father, a former army Colonel who is already embarrassed by his son’s inability to serve in WWII due to his being colorblind. To Maddie’s horror, Ellis decides that the only way to regain his father’s favor is to succeed in a venture his father attempted and very publicly failed at: he will hunt the famous Loch Ness monster and when he finds it he will restore his father’s name and return to his father’s good graces (and pocketbook). Joined by their friend Hank, a wealthy socialite, the three make their way to Scotland in the midst of war. Each day the two men go off to hunt the monster, while another monster, Hitler, is devastating Europe. And Maddie, now alone in a foreign country, must begin to figure out who she is and what she wants. The novel tells of Maddie’s social awakening: to the harsh realities of life, to the beauties of nature, to a connection with forces larger than herself, to female friendship, and finally, to love."


A married couple, Ellis and Maddie, live a very privileged life in Philadelphia during the year of 1942. Basically they are socialites and a whole lot of nothing other than spend nights attending parties, drinking too much, and hanging out with their best friend, Hank, and his flavor of the month.  On New Year's Eve at a high society Philadelphia party, they embarrasses themselves by drinking too much and causing a scene. Of course, this gets back to Ellis' father who has had enough with his son and uses this as the catalyst to throw him out along with his wife, Maddie. Hank and Ellis should be serving in WWII; however, both, conveniently have been exempt for medical reasons.  Ellis is color blind and Hank is flat footed. This, again, embarrasses Ellis' father, a former Colonel, to no end.  Ellis realizes that in order to gain back his father's trust, he has to do the one thing that his father failed at years ago: capture a picture of the infamous Loch Ness monster.  He feels this will restore his family's honor as well.  Hank, Ellis and Maddie travel to Scotland in the middle of WWII and what occurs will change all three of their lives forever. Sara Gruen's At the Water's Edge is an atmospheric historical tale that examines love, friendship, and the sacrifices people make during wartime.


I truly felt for Maddie in At the Water's Edge. She is stuck in a heartless marriage to a very spoiled little man-boy. Ellis is manipulative, condescending and an all-around monster. I truly couldn't stand him. I wanted Maddie to get as far away from him as possible. I was even wondering why she even bothered marrying him in the first place? I was hoping the Loch Ness monster would consume him in one swift bite. To make matters worse, he is an alcoholic and addicted to Maddie's pills for her nerves, which she doesn't even take. His parents as well as Ellis feel she had a "nervous condition," which is why she has them. 

But Maddie, although a rich and sheltered woman, grows so much on her trip to Scotland. She experiences first hand the effects of war, how the other half lives and even befriends the women at the inn they are staying at. She grows for the better on this trip and realizes that her marriage to Ellis ins't going to work. What she is feeling isn't even love. This is all because someone has caught her eye and makes her feel things she didn't know were possible.

Ellis and Hank had this weird bromance going on in At the Water's Edge. Hank could see how harsh Ellis is, but always made excuses for him or helped him smooth things over with Maddie. Hank was truly blind to Ellis' problems, but wasn't as crazy as him, because he was sympathetic and nicer to Maddie. Nonetheless, I couldn't quite figure out their toxic friendship that I thought might be something more.

The setting of Scotland is very vivid in At the Water's Edge. I loved the village and the people as well as the bustling pub life.  To see how life was impacted by WWII was also interesting. The air raids, rationing, the many people fighting that never came back all added to the atmosphere of this story. Gruen did a great job bringing it to life.

What was most surprising about At the Water's Edge was the new life that Maddie creates for herself and the budding romance that ensues. She went to Scotland not being able to even make a bed and by the end of the book, she could do that and much, much more. She starts to care for the people at the inn and even a certain person who is running the inn.

While I felt things were wrapped up a little too nicely in At the Water's Edge, I still enjoyed the book and being transported to Scotland in the 1940s.  For those who enjoy a little history in their romance, I encourage you to check this one out.

I have an ARC of this book that I am giving away to one lucky US reader.  Please refer to my giveaway rules and the deadline is April 10th.  Good luck!



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12 comments:

  1. This looks really great!!
    Also, I must tell you, I love your blog design. It's gorgeous!!

    Emily@ http://emily-confessionsofabookaholic.blogspot.co.uk

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    1. Thanks so much, Emily. I appreciate it. Thanks for visiting!

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  2. "I was hoping the Loch Ness monster would consume him in one swift bite."

    I was hoping the exact same thing just after reading your opening paragraph Christina! I'm really glad Maddie finds her way to someone else though, and is able to see just how bad things with Ellis really are. This is making me want to book a trip to Scotland immediately!

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    1. Haha. I'm glad you agree, Jenny. I know! I loved the setting of Scotland..absolutely fantastic. I would love to visit one day. Thanks for dropping by!

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  3. Christina, I'm so glad you enjoyed this one; I just finished it on Saturday, and I thought about you a lot! I loved the setting of the Scottish Highlands and Gruen's vivid descriptions; I felt like I was there with them! I was definitely surprised by Maddie's new "romance," and totally agree that it ended quite nicely; overall, I thought it was a great read. Thanks so much for a great review; hope you had nice weekend!

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    1. I'm glad you enjoyed it as well. The setting of Scotland was one of my favorite aspects of the book. I will keep my eye out for your review. Thanks for visiting, Tara!

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  4. This one sounds good. I'll have to pick it up or hopefully I win your giveaway!

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    1. Thanks, Linda! I'm glad you like the sound of it and thanks for visiting.

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  5. I'm really looking forward to this one. I'm curious as to whether or not the boys did find Nessie. Lol.

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    1. I didn't want to talk too much about that in my review for fear of spoilers, but I think you'll enjoy how Gruen incorporated Nessie. Thanks for visiting, Joy!

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  6. Excellent review. I really liked the book and realized I still need to review it! Oops.

    I hated Ellis and I thought perhaps there was something going on between him and Hank. I didn't really care for Hank either. I felt really bad for Maddie who had a difficult childhood and then married someone not worthy of her and into a family that hated her. Like you, I was happy that Maddie bloomed in Scotland and found her inner strength and made new friends.

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    1. YES! I was thinking the same thing about Ellis and Hank....definitely something going on there. I wasn't a big fan of Hank either, but I tolerated him much more than Ellis. I felt for Maddie as well and loved her new-found friendships in Scotland...one of the best parts of the story! I'm glad you enjoyed this one as well, Christina. thanks for visiting!

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