At the water's edge

At the Water's EdgeAt the Water's Edge by Sara Gruen
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The proprietor of a Scottish loch-side inn, the men and women who work there, the townspeople who keep the faith during the dark times of WWII: these are well-drawn, real characters whose survival matters deeply to the reader. Their folklore (including the Loch Ness Monster), their remedies for everything from seasickness to the devastation of domestic violence, their soups and teas - these illuminate personalities of a terrified, but far from fractured community.

Unfortunately, these are secondary characters, used as backdrop for three Americans whose heedlessness, selfishness, casual cruelty, snobbishness, and backbiting are only a hair's breath from cartoonish. A young, married couple is disinherited by insular, callous parents. They and an equally callow friend go to the Loch to film (by any means necessary) the Monster, which the beastly father had filmed - falsely - years before. The two men mistreat everyone they come across - except, possibly, each other - and the woman, left behind at the inn for days at a time, grows a soul.

There are love stories mixed in here, some of which engage the reader. There is so much backstory in the first third of the book that the reader may despair of finding the thread of a worthy plot.  There are glimpses of what the real war has done to real people, both military and civilian, and there is hope - because the reader knows the outcome of the war.

Disappointing, but worth two stars for the heart and soul of the small town that takes in three hapless Americans.

I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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