Monday, August 3, 2015

Book Review: The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach by Pam Jenoff

Pages: 384
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: July 28, 2015
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "Summer 1941.  Young Adelia Monteforte flees fascist Italy for America, where she is whisked away to the shore by her well-meaning aunt and uncle. Here, she meets and falls for Charlie Connally, the eldest of the four Irish-Catholic boys next door. But all hopes for a future together are soon throttled by the war and a tragedy that hits much closer to home.   Grief-stricken, Addie flees—first to Washington and then to war-torn London—and finds a position at a prestigious newspaper, as well as a chance to redeem lost time, lost family…and lost love. But the past always nips at her heels, demanding to be reckoned with. And in a final, fateful choice, Addie discovers that the way home may be a path she never suspected. 

Adelia Monteforte boarded a ship, alone, during the summer of 1941 in Italy. Her parents sent her to America to escape the political situation in Italy. She made the entire voyage on her own and met up with her aunt and uncle whom she has never met. Adelia now lives in Philadelphia, but for the summer she is spending it at her aunt and uncle's beach house in Atlantic City.  There she meets four Irish-Catholic brothers, the Connallys.  They become her first real American friends; she even hits it off with Mrs. Connally forming a special bond with her. During the summer, the boys help Adelia break out of her shell and even smile again. Once summer is over and they return to Philadelphia, but things change as war is looming.  Adelia's secret crush on Charlie Connally becomes even more real than she ever thought imaginable, but then tragedy strikes.  Adelia flees to Washington D.C. to try her luck at a newspaper and then finds herself in London, which is even closer to the war than before.  Pam Jenoff's epic historical romance swept me away. The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach is one of my favorite books of the year.

Adelia's had to start over in America and my heart really went out to her. I can't imagine how hard it must be to live with an aunt and uncle whom you never met before, learn a new language, and get accustomed to a new culture.  Thankfully, she has the Connallys who take her in from the beginning and show her how to have fun and show her friendship.  Adelia, or Addie, has always had a crush on Charlie Conally, the larger-than-life quarterback, who is charismatic and kind to her.  She never thought Charlie would notice her as more than a friend, until one day he does, but circumstances change as the dark cloud of War is circling them.  Addie and Charlie meet again, but their love is star-crossed in The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach.

As Addie grows up and moves on to Washington D.C. and then to London, I enjoyed her more and more. She meets new people, challenges herself to make a difference and even finds someone that catches her eye.

Jenoff really created a sense of place in The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach.  I have family members that grew up in Philadelphia during the same time as Addie and reading this book really brought that to life for me. She described the city and the way of life so well; I was completely absorbed. Needless to say, I adored her descriptions of Atlantic City as I am a Jersey Shore lover myself! Also, I thought her description of London during the war was fantastic. I felt like I was there alongside Addie experiencing everything, seeing the Thames, St. Paul's and all the other important landmarks, all while worrying about air raids. 

The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach feels like it has been ripped from my Ancestry.com page and I absolutely loved that I could connect to this book like that. My grandmother as well as great-grandparents have come to Philadelphia from Europe and Ireland and I felt reading Addie's story really helped me to appreciate what they had to go through during the war and how scary it was for the family members left behind. 

I was completely dazzled by Pam Jenoff's The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach and I can't wait to read more of her work in the future. If you are a historical fiction fan, you will love being caught up in this sweeping historical romance. 


8 comments:

  1. I am a fan of war time historical fiction, so I'm glad you reviewed this, Christina. I especially liked that the setting moved from different cities, and watching the character finds herself in each one. I've seen this book around, but just didn't really pay that much attention to it. Definitely on my list now!

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    1. I hope you get to read it, Joy! I think you'll enjoy it. Thanks for visiting!

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  2. I think my mother in law would really enjoy this one Christina! Her parents came over from Ireland so I know she would really connect to these characters and their struggles. Lovely review!!!

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    1. I think she would really like this book, Jenny! Thanks for visiting!

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  3. Oh, my gosh; I knew just from the description that you would say you loved this one, Christina! I'm not even a huge historical fiction fan (I like some, but not all) and this sounds GREAT! I'm so glad you enjoyed it and thank you for sharing this title with me!! Did you enjoy your TWO HOURS of Poldark last night?? :)

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    1. Haha. YES! You are starting to get to know my taste. (I am still recovering from that Poldark finale. OMG!) I am glad there will be a season two though. Thanks for visiting, Tara!

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  4. Fantastic review! I don't know how I missed this book before it was released but now I must have it!

    That is really awesome that you can connect it with your own family's heritage and experiences too. I hope I get a chance to read this soon because it sounds wonderful.

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    1. I think that is why I enjoyed it so much, Christina....to make that personal connection was really great. I think you'd enjoy this one. Thanks for visiting!

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