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BOOK REVIEW: At the Water's Edge

This lovely wartime novel by Sara Gruen is set against a backdrop of American affluence. That is until fortunes are reversed its characters travel to Scotland on an unlikely adventure.

Sumptuous storyteller Sara Gruen (Water for Elephants) sets us up at the New Year’s Eve 1944 Philadelphia party bar, where stick-thin Maddie, her reckless, pill-popping husband Ellis, and his feckless best friend Hank are downing Champagne until dawn, waking to rallying bourbon sidecars and gin fizzes.
When Ellis’ embarrassed Colonel father finally disinherits his colour blind ‘F-fer’ son (wartime lingo for men who couldn’t enlist because of a medical condition), Maddie agrees to a folly-filled trip across the Atlantic to hunt the Loch Ness monster in Scotland.
There, steak is rationed, there is no smoking during blackouts, and an American ‘monster hunter’ is just one step up from a ‘war tourist’. As the boys drunkenly flout the rules and insult the locals, Maddie is drawn to the pub girls – she learns to cook, clean and dip her toe in the war effort, and meets someone who may change her life.
A charming page-turner.

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