The Summer Before the War - Helen Simonson

The Summer Before the War

By Helen Simonson

  • Release Date: 2016-03-22
  • Genre: Historical
Score: 4.5
From 142 Ratings


NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • “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

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.


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.

Praise for The Summer Before the War

“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


  • Forgetful

    By Libbie Bailey
    Like trudging through mud, this one.
  • Enjoyed throughout and cried at the end

    By Piggle2303
    A beautiful book. I enjoyed the descriptions. The characters were so vividly realized. I was deeply moved by the ending. What a lovely tribute to the many warriors of WWI.
  • Not as good as Major Pettigrew

    By CeeStor
    I would recommend her other book, Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, over this book. While it is wonderfully descriptive of life in small town England before WWI, the plot seemed very linear and somewhat thudded to an end. Also during a large segment of the book you are waiting to see how the main character will do at her teaching job and this plot line is never fully developed. It was OK but Major Pettigrew was much better.
  • The Summer Before the War

    By Lyn in AZ
    Loved every moment of this beautiful story. 1914 in small community of Rye where you feel you are living through the events leading up to WWI in rural England. Characters are interesting with depth and some surprises! Great read.