Instaread Summary of The Summer Before the War: by Helen Simonson
Four out of five stars
Most stories involving World War I in Europe, whether fiction or not, concentrate on the major consequences of the conflict. The fall of empires and the rise of the United States and Japan as world powers were the major changes in the world. This story is about events in a small British town called Rye and the changes that take place as the death grind of the war settles in.
It is clear from the summary that the challenges of living through the war are a secondary backdrop to a convoluted set of relationships between many people in Rye. While one cannot extract a complete understanding from a summary, it seems clear that there may be too many complex relationships to be absorbed in one novel.
Not only is there the war and the often petty machinations of a small town, social issues also are an integral part of the plot. Male homosexuality, out-of-wedlock births (one due to a rape), the lack of female rights and feminism are included. This just seems to be overwhelming, in reading the summary of the plot I found it necessary to backtrack several times in order to acquire a clarification of a character.
If you are a fan of complex romances set in “interesting” times, then you will likely be convinced to read the book. Although the spoilers are generally complete, so there will be no surprises. Readers that prefer simpler backdrops to their romance reading may struggle to complete it.
This book was made available for free for review purposes.