sâmbătă , 25 noiembrie 2017

My favorite paragraphs: „The Summer Before the War,” by Helen Simonson

the summer before the war

Helen Simonson, the 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.

Here are some of my favorite paragraphs in the book:

In the warm afternoon, Beatrice again walked the road out of town, up the hill, to Agatha Kent’s house and reflected how quickly it had become a familiar way, and how comfortable the small town already seemed. It was no doubt some effect of sunshine, and of the breeze, which always held a hint of salty marsh grass.

***

“It is a curse, but I have never been able to speak anything but the truth when it comes to the written word,” said Mr. Tillingham.

***

“I think I’ll take a ride on my bicycle and eat my breakfast on the beach.”

***

“A cup of tea and just some plain bread and butter,” said Agatha to the footman. The éclair, she decided with a sigh, would have to be forgone, as to eat one in front of Bettina Fothergill would be a weakness, and Bettina was prone to pounce on weakness like a weasel on a frog.

***

Hugh hung back as they entered the inn’s lobby and asked a porter to bring him a pen and paper. He took a seat at a small table in a window nook and busied himself with turning over the pages of an old issue of the Racing Times.

***

Out here on the marsh, there seemed to be no other person in the world, only the flutter of white butterflies among the nodding meadowsweet and tall grasses that edged the green and weedy ditches. The very day seemed to dance within her, and Beatrice Nash hitched her blue serge skirts higher and let out a whoop of joy to have the whole day to herself.

***

She would eat her picnic and then just meander home, keeping always to the west, until she found herself on familiar pathways.

***

A wood pigeon, always the cello in the orchestra of birdsong, gave out its low double coo from the shade. But for the throb, like a beat from a large drum, which began to vibrate in her right ankle, she thought it would have been very pleasant just to lie there.

***

The moment hovered in silence while a small fountain plashed in its mossy bowl and a breeze, stirring across the cool, tiled floor, set the flower heads to nodding. At last, Hugh put down his teacup, balancing his large buttered tea cake on the saucer. Wiping his hands swiftly on his napkin, he seized Lucy’s hand.

***

Recovering her composure by pouring a last cup of tea from the teapot, Beatrice tried to think about her situation in a more objective way. It was a trick her father had taught her as a child when she was sad or angry. To analyze the problem in a larger, more empirical way would, he always said, improve her mood and her intellect at the same time.

***

“I’ll just stay here and have a moment to read and smoke in peace,” said Daniel.

***

“For I long ago found a home and a safe harbor in this tiny corner of England and I can never seem to be happy anywhere else.”

About the book:

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 sabre 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.

„The Summer Before the War” was published on March 22, 2016, at Random House. You can also find it on amazon.com.

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