The From-Aways is a novel about two women who are outsiders to Menamon, Maine, but move there at about the same time. This is the kind of book I always tend to like. Sometimes books about women in a small town end up dealing with deep, dark issues. Sometimes they are fluffy beach reads. Either one suits me fine. Unfortunately, this book fell flat. The book had potential in the beginning, but quickly became boring and the writing quality just isn’t good. There are parts of the book where I should definitely be feeling something in connection with the story and characters, but I just felt a desire for the book to be over. The only positive of the book is that there is sexuality diversity in the form of a lesbian main character.
I’ve always been a fan of historical fiction. My mother and grandmother sometimes had some books of that genre around the house, but I also sought it out myself at the library when I was younger. After college, which I attended later than most, I found myself reading more literary fiction and finding myself snubbing some historical fiction as not proper literature. Part of the reason for that (even though I actually despise snobbery of any type of books and in general) is that a lot of historical fiction seems to blur together. To me, it often feels like “you’ve read one historical novel set in Europe during a world war or the U.S. during the Civil War, you’ve read them all.”
The Summer Before the War was a refreshing change. Yes, it’s a genre novel. Helen Simonson set her latest book during WWI in England. But that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Sometimes you want the comfort and simplicity of the familiar. The great thing about this book is that you get that nice, relaxed genre novel experience (if you’re into historical fiction) and you get a really good read in general. The characters feel vibrant. The story is interesting. I highly recommend reading it. I also recommend having this book made into a full series (or at the very least a mini-series) since I’d love to see the screen version of this and I don’t think a movie would do the book (story-wise and to fully showcase the great characters) justice.