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Extended Audio Sample The Summer Before the War: A Novel, by Helen Simonson Click for printable size audiobook cover
4.5 out of 54.5 out of 54.5 out of 54.5 out of 54.5 out of 5 4.50 (2 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Helen Simonson Narrator: Fiona Hardingham Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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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.

East Sussex, 1914. It is the end of England’s brief Edwardian summer, and everyone agrees that the weather has never been so beautiful. 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. Agatha’s husband works in the Foreign Office, and she is certain he will ensure that the recent saber rattling over the Balkans won’t come to anything. And Agatha has more immediate concerns; she has just risked her carefully built reputation by pushing for the appointment of a woman to replace the Latin master.

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. For her part, mourning the death of her beloved father, who has left her penniless, Beatrice simply wants to be left alone to pursue her teaching and writing.

But just as Beatrice comes alive to the beauty of the Sussex landscape and the colorful characters who populate Rye, the perfect summer is about to end. For despite Agatha’s reassurances, the unimaginable is coming. Soon the limits of progress, and the old ways, will be tested as this small Sussex town and its inhabitants go to war.

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Quotes & Awards

  • A novel to cure your Downton Abbey withdrawal . . . a delightful story about nontraditional romantic relationships, class snobbery and the everybody-knows-everybody complications of living in a small community. The Washington Post
     
  • What begins as a study of a small-town society becomes a compelling account of war and its aftermath. Woman’s Day
  • This witty character study of how a small English town reacts to the 1914 arrival of its first female teacher offers gentle humor wrapped in a hauntingly detailed story. Good Housekeeping
     
  • Perfect for readers in a post–Downton Abbey slump . . . The gently teasing banter between two kindred spirits edging slowly into love is as delicately crafted as a bone-china teacup. . . . More than a high-toned romantic reverie for Anglophiles—though it serves the latter purpose, too. The Seattle Times
  • [Helen Simonson’s] characters are so vivid, it’s as if a PBS series has come to life. There’s scandal, star-crossed love and fear, but at its heart, The Summer Before the War is about loyalty, love and family. AARP: The Magazine
  • At once haunting and effervescent, The Summer Before the War demonstrates the sure hand of a master. Helen Simonson’s characters enchant us, her English countryside beguiles us, and her historical intelligence keeps us at the edge of our seats. 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. Annie Barrows, author of The Truth According to Us and co-author of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
     
  • Helen Simonson has outdone herself in this radiant follow-up to Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand. The provincial town of Rye, East Sussex, in the days just before and after the Great War is so vividly drawn it fairly vibrates. The depth and sensitivity with which she weighs the steep costs and delicate bonds of wartime—and not just for the young men in the trenches, but for every changed life and heart—reveal the full mastery of her storytelling. Simonson is like a Jane Austen for our day and age—she is that good—and The Summer Before the War is nothing short of a treasure. Paula McLain, author of The Paris Wife and Circling the Sun
  • A bright confection of a book morphs into a story of dignity and backbone. . . . This book is beautifully plotted and morally astute. Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
  • Simonson’s second novel paints a sensitive, witty, luminous portrait of England at the outbreak of World War I. Shelf Awareness
  • This novel is just the ticket for fans of Simonson’s debut, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, and for any reader who enjoys leisurely fiction steeped in the British past. Booklist
  • “Simonson’s characters enchant us, her English countryside beguiles us, and her historical intelligence keeps us at the edge of our seats.”

    Annie Barrows, New York Times bestselling author

  • “[Simonson’s] characters are so vivid, it’s as if a PBS series has come to life. There’s scandal, star-crossed love, and fear, but at its heart, The Summer before the War is about loyalty, love and family.”

    AARP: The Magazine

  • “What begins as a study of a small-town society becomes a compelling account of war and its aftermath.”

    Woman’s Day

  • “This witty character study of how a small English town reacts to the 1914 arrival of its first female teacher offers gentle humor wrapped in a hauntingly detailed story.”

    Good Housekeeping

  • “A novel to cure your Downton Abbey withdrawal…a delightful story about nontraditional romantic relationships, class snobbery, and the everybody-knows-everybody complications of living in a small community.”

    Washington Post

  • “The gently teasing banter between two kindred spirits edging slowly into love is as delicately crafted as a bone-china teacup.”

    Seattle Times

  • “A bright confection of a book morphs into a story of dignity and backbone…This book is beautifully plotted and morally astute.”

    Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

  • “Narrator Fiona Hardingham breathes life into a huge cast of characters—from the grieving, determined Miss Nash to a Romani schoolboy. She’s especially adept with accents; the American author who is trying to downplay his heritage sounds appropriately ambiguous, and a Belgian refugee who speaks halting, heavily accented English is convincing. With subtle wit and barely suppressed emotion…this is storytelling at its finest, with a narration to match. Winner of AudioFIle Earphones Award.”

    AudioFile

  • “For any reader who enjoys leisurely fiction steeped in the British past.”

    Booklist

  • “Full of wry humor and lovable characters, this winning look at a sleepy town on the cusp of change will steal readers’ hearts.”

    BookPage

  • A March 2016 LibraryReads Pick
  • A BookPage Top Pick for April 2016
  • An AudioFile Editors’ Pick
  • Winner of an AudioFile Earphones Award
  • A New York Times Bestseller

Listener Opinions

  • 4.666666 out of 54.666666 out of 54.666666 out of 54.666666 out of 54.666666 out of 5 by HoneyO | 9/24/2016

    " well drawn characters, somewhat predictable but still entertaining "

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