The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson
It’s 1914 in a small village in East Sussex, just before England enters the Great War, and Agatha Kent (who would have been played by Rosalind Russell in the 1950s), one of the prominent ladies of the town, has risked her reputation to advocate for the hiring of a female Latin teacher, Beatrice Nash. Other main characters include Agatha’s nephews Hugh (an aspiring surgeon) and Daniel (an aspiring poet), and the prominent author Mr. Tillingham (a fictionalized version of Henry James).
In its review, the Washington Post summed up the appeal: “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.”
I absolutely loved this book and didn’t want it to end. I found it to be both very witty and surprisingly moving. It’s not only a great follow-up to Simonson’s first novel, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, it’s the perfect way to start the summer.
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