After embarrassing themselves at the social event of the year in high society Philadelphia on New Year’s Eve of 1942, Maddie and Ellis Hyde are cut off financially by Ellis’s father, a former army Colonel who is already embarrassed by his son’s inability to serve in WWII due to his being colorblind. To Maddie’s horror, Ellis decides that the only way to regain his father’s favor is to succeed in a venture his father attempted and very publicly failed at: he will hunt the famous Loch Ness monster and when he finds it he will restore his father’s name and return to his father’s good graces (and pocketbook). Joined by their friend Hank, a wealthy socialite, the three make their way to Scotland in the midst of war. Each day the two men go off to hunt the monster, while another monster, Hitler, is devastating Europe. And Maddie, now alone in a foreign country, must begin to figure out who she is and what she wants. The novel tells of Maddie’s social awakening: to the harsh realities of life, to the beauties of nature, to a connection with forces larger than herself, to female friendship, and finally, to love. – Goodreads
After reading that, I thought the book was going to be about a hunt for the Loch Ness monster. No joke, that’s what I thought I was in for. You see, I never read Water For Elephants, so I’m unfamiliar with Gruen’s writing. I didn’t realize I was in for a story of death, domestic violence, divorce, and effing colorblindness.
I don’t know how to sugarcoat it: I was bored.
What kept me reading until the end? It wasn’t completely boring. There was some intrigue. And Gruen’s writing is beautiful. She really brought the scenes and historical time setting to life—I could picture everything perfectly.
I did not like any of the main characters. In fact, I really had no idea why the hell they were searching for the Loch Ness monster anyway. Three rich kids have a quarter-life crisis and decide to find Nessie? Well, ok. They were all generally unlikeable characters, though I found the supporting characters much more likeable, so they kept me hanging on.
My other gripe was the war. It was very awkwardly tied in. Every once in a while it was mentioned in a very random, jarring way.
Anyway, I wasn’t terribly thrilled with this novel. I will still give Water for Elephants a chance, though. I rated it 3/5 on Goodreads.
I received At The Water’s Edge through NetGalley and Spiegel & Grau in exchange for an honest review.