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.