At the Water's Edge

At the Water's Edge

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...

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Title:At the Water's Edge
Author:Sara Gruen
Rating:
Edition Language:English

At the Water's Edge Reviews

  • Phrynne

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book and found it very hard to put down. It was a teeny tiny bit less good than

    but still a five star read for me. The three rich, spoilt Americans were suitably awful and the Scottish setting was well drawn. The whole thing was set to a background of World War Two and we accessed the details of this as the main character did by reading the local newspaper, always a few days late and not always completely accurate. I enjoyed watching Maddie develop

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book and found it very hard to put down. It was a teeny tiny bit less good than

    but still a five star read for me. The three rich, spoilt Americans were suitably awful and the Scottish setting was well drawn. The whole thing was set to a background of World War Two and we accessed the details of this as the main character did by reading the local newspaper, always a few days late and not always completely accurate. I enjoyed watching Maddie develop from spoilt brat into someone you would want to have as a friend and I especially liked the rather vengeful ending. All in all a nicely written and very enjoyable book.

  • M.J.

    Pitch perfect atmosphere, characters who grow and develop, who anger and impress and please, a story line that ebbs and flows and builds in intensity until you are utterly submerged in the story - turning pages faster than you want to because you want to do the writing justice but you also have to find out what happened. At the Water's Edge is the the kind of novel that restores one's faith in humanity -- and in great writing. It was an honor to read it.

  • Carol Brill

    Sara Gruen is a wonderful writer and storyteller. I've read four of her books and loved every one.

    At The Water's Edge started slow for me, taking 6 or 8 chapters for me to get attached to the narrator, Maddie. At the start, she, her husband Ellis, and their best friend, Hank, are spoiled, entitled, upperclass twenty something's who show little respect. When their over the top behavior gets them kicked out of Ellis' parents' house, they decide to go to Scotland. In spite of being in the midst of

    Sara Gruen is a wonderful writer and storyteller. I've read four of her books and loved every one.

    At The Water's Edge started slow for me, taking 6 or 8 chapters for me to get attached to the narrator, Maddie. At the start, she, her husband Ellis, and their best friend, Hank, are spoiled, entitled, upperclass twenty something's who show little respect. When their over the top behavior gets them kicked out of Ellis' parents' house, they decide to go to Scotland. In spite of being in the midst of WW II, The plan is to one-up Ellis' father and find the Loch Ness monster.

    In Scotland, they find spare rooms at an inn run by the gruff and mysterious Angus who has lost more than can be imagined in the war and the Loch. At first, Ellis, Hank, and Maddie look down on the "help" including Angus, barmaid, Meg, and the housekeeper, Anna. Slowly, Maddie starts to befriend them , realizing she has misjudged them. This is where the story really started to draw me in.

    As Maddie learns her husband Ellis' dark secrets, the danger and suspense grows. What Unfathomable depths will he go to to protect himself? In addition to all the complexity that comes with writing historical fiction laced with true events, Sara Gruen skillfully weaves, grief, stolen love, drug addiction, treachery, mental illness, the atrocities of war, human kindness, and friendship that ignores class distinctions and renews hope in the human spirit. Oh, and a satisfying ending. What else can you ask for?

  • Elyse (semi hiatus) Walters

    I really enjoyed the beginning of this story, starting with "The New Years Eve Party".

    For me --the strengths of the book are the characters. They each seem go through personality and behavior changes --especially *Ellis and Maddie* (the married couple). *Hank* is their best friend. I

    Pill popping whiskey drinking *Ellis* is colored blind -- which keeps him from going to war. He is complex -- he can go from 'good guy' to 'sleazbag' in the matter of seconds. I found him to be quite interesting.

    I really enjoyed the beginning of this story, starting with "The New Years Eve Party".

    For me --the strengths of the book are the characters. They each seem go through personality and behavior changes --especially *Ellis and Maddie* (the married couple). *Hank* is their best friend. I

    Pill popping whiskey drinking *Ellis* is colored blind -- which keeps him from going to war. He is complex -- he can go from 'good guy' to 'sleazbag' in the matter of seconds. I found him to be quite interesting.

    *Maddie* is suppose to look thin-beautiful-and be on the side of *Ellis*. *Ellis* sees her as a girl always up for an adventure. One minute you think she is 'wild-girl' adventurous ---the next 'fragile'.

    *Hank* is 'good-old-Hank' (the guy who doesn't want to commit to marriage). Life seems pretty easy going for 'Hank' --as its his personality.

    The characters become irritating and annoying as adventures continue in Scotland during the end of WW11, --and I may never want to eat a bowl of porridge again, but at least I could connect with their human struggles...(judge them as I may)

    I had a harder time connecting with hunting for Loch Ness monster. My mind just doesn't work that way. I understand people still search for the monster --so other readers may get a kick out of this part of the story.

    I actually think this book might come more 'alive' by having a book discussion --(I think it would for me) -- I could even see this as a movie!

  • Leanne

    It's been so long since I read

    that I only really remember the feeling I got when I read it, and not necessarily any of the finer plot points or the writing style. And

    is not quite that - it didn't excite me or lift my heart the way

    did, but I still liked it in its own right.

    First of all, I loved the whole idea of the book - Maddie, her husband Ellis, and their very close friend Hank (a very cozy threesome) live a luxurious, lazy party life - World

    It's been so long since I read

    that I only really remember the feeling I got when I read it, and not necessarily any of the finer plot points or the writing style. And

    is not quite that - it didn't excite me or lift my heart the way

    did, but I still liked it in its own right.

    First of all, I loved the whole idea of the book - Maddie, her husband Ellis, and their very close friend Hank (a very cozy threesome) live a luxurious, lazy party life - World War II is raging on outside, but they're stuck in their own bubble, exempt from the battle due to one of the men being colorblind and other being "flat-footed" (I hear about this in relation to war all the time - is this a real thing?!) Everyone around them harshly judges their situation and the men's lack of bravery and nobility, and so they come up with the grand plan of traveling to Scotland to find the Loch Ness Monster (something Ellis' father has tried and failed/faked to do) to restore their honor.

    Unfortunately, the actual search for Loch Ness Monster is sort of put on the back burner - this is much more a story about Maddie's personal development and the relationships between her and Ellis, Hank, and the people they cohabitate with at the inn they stay at in Scotland (a very likeable and colourful crew!) This is fine, because her journey is well done and believable, but it seems a little mean to introduce such a sensational and intriguing plot point and then leave it hanging. There's all kinds of domestic tragedy - death, divorce, drunken violence, Maddie fainting a few times...which at times veers on melodramatic but certainly make the story more interesting. There are also a few almost supernatural touches, but they kind of work with the atmosphere of the Scottish town.

    A few irritations - Gruen info dumps wartime statistics for paragraphs at a time that aren't particularly relevant to the specific story she's telling, and the ending is neatly tied up into a bow - which left me rolling my eyes a bit after excellent beginning and middle sections.

    It seems like I've discussed more negative than positive, but it's a good book! Easy to read and engaging and almost comforting (despite some of the unpleasant topics), it won't keep me up at night thinking about it, but I'm certainly glad I read it.

  • Althea Ann

    Does this sound appealing to you?

    'The Great Gatsby' meets 'Outlander'?

    It's not precisely what this book is - it's set during WWII, not the 1920's, and the Romance With A 'Highlander' is in the 'present' day, no time travel involved... but if the concept sounds good, you'll probably like this book.

    Oh, and throw in the Loch Ness Monster.

    Three filthy-rich American douchebags decide to go the Scotland in the middle of the war to search for the Loch Ness monster, get stinking drunk, and act like

    Does this sound appealing to you?

    'The Great Gatsby' meets 'Outlander'?

    It's not precisely what this book is - it's set during WWII, not the 1920's, and the Romance With A 'Highlander' is in the 'present' day, no time travel involved... but if the concept sounds good, you'll probably like this book.

    Oh, and throw in the Loch Ness Monster.

    Three filthy-rich American douchebags decide to go the Scotland in the middle of the war to search for the Loch Ness monster, get stinking drunk, and act like entitled asses.

    For one of them, mixing with the 'common people' acts as a wake-up call, but for the others, life tips further into crisis.

    I have to admit, I didn't enjoy this book as much as 'Water for Elephants.' It was entertaining, and carried me through... but when all's said and done, this is a very wish-fulfillment-y romance, and doesn't really transcend the genre. The villains end up villainous to the point of being cartoonish, and of course

    .

    But the biggest weakness of the book was that I wasn't really feeling the romance. I wasn't sure why the two were even attracted to each other, and the author didn't make me feel it. I also didn't think that doing a bit of tidying up and pulling a few pints for the locals was NEARLY enough in the way of redemptive behavior on the part of a thoroughly awful and unlikable person. Just becoming a victim isn't enough to make me cheer for someone...

    However, although I thought there was room for improvement, this was still a pretty good book. If you're in the mood for a bit of romance with a hint of the supernatural, you could do far, far worse than 'At the Water's Edge.'

    Many thanks to NetGalley for the opportunity to read. As always, my opinions are solely my own.

  • Carol

    First of all, I understand all the less than stellar reviews as the plot really is ridiculous......taking a trip across the Atlantic to Scotland in search of the Loch Ness monster, during wartime no less, just so a young spoiled son of a rich man can get back into his father's good graces, salvage his "full" allowance and move back into the family mansion? Really.......

    First of all, I understand all the less than stellar reviews as the plot really is ridiculous......taking a trip across the Atlantic to Scotland in search of the Loch Ness monster, during wartime no less, just so a young spoiled son of a rich man can get back into his father's good graces, salvage his "full" allowance and move back into the family mansion? Really.......

  • Angela M

    2.5 stars rounded up.

    The place and history are well depicted here but I found it difficult to connect with Maddie , the main character until I was at least halfway through the book . When the connection between the opening story and the present story became apparent, I became more interested but it was a bit too predictable. I did like Anna and Meg and Angus and I couldn't help but feel for Maddie and these people .

    Maybe because I had just finished reading a deeply moving and heartbreaking

    2.5 stars rounded up.

    The place and history are well depicted here but I found it difficult to connect with Maddie , the main character until I was at least halfway through the book . When the connection between the opening story and the present story became apparent, I became more interested but it was a bit too predictable. I did like Anna and Meg and Angus and I couldn't help but feel for Maddie and these people .

    Maybe because I had just finished reading a deeply moving and heartbreaking book that this was just a bit too thin for me . I was expecting this to be as good as Water for Elephants which I loved and rated 5 stars , but it just wasn't. It was a quick , okay read .

    Thanks to Random House and NetGalley .

    .

  • Nicole

    Sara Gruen is like Sarah Waters Lite. Or Sarah Waters washed out, perhaps. The history in Gruen's historical fiction felt incidental. WWII just happened to be raging in the background while her characters raged at each other in the foreground. I didn't mind the "lite" history, but it was jarring when she'd suddenly insert a 2 paragraph update on the war. And that's what it felt like- a calculated insert. "Oops, haven't reset the scene in a while, let's make mention of those Allied troops one

    Sara Gruen is like Sarah Waters Lite. Or Sarah Waters washed out, perhaps. The history in Gruen's historical fiction felt incidental. WWII just happened to be raging in the background while her characters raged at each other in the foreground. I didn't mind the "lite" history, but it was jarring when she'd suddenly insert a 2 paragraph update on the war. And that's what it felt like- a calculated insert. "Oops, haven't reset the scene in a while, let's make mention of those Allied troops one more time."

    Speaking of jarring, I felt like the book took a nosedive in the second half. What started as lite history devolved into paperback romance somewhere in later chapters. There might even have been some bodice ripping...just sayin'.

    But it's not all bad! Gruen is a decent writer and I enjoyed her Scottish female characters (though it was difficult to distinguish one from the other). I genuinely felt badly for Maddie, even if this was a mess of her own making. And the drama between the husband-best-friend-wife triangle was interesting...at least until it became unbelievable.

    So, yes. In a word (or two), I'd say "pass". It's not a bad book, but there are much better ones out there, including one of Gruen's own. Water for Elephants, say what?!

  • Brightness

    I will just go ahead and tell you right now, that this book opens with three of the most unlikeable characters you can possibly imagine. You might even ask yourself why you would want to continue reading several hundred pages about the vapid lives of a bunch of over privileged American brats. In response I say, yeah, I thought the same thing.

    Maddie, her husband

    I will just go ahead and tell you right now, that this book opens with three of the most unlikeable characters you can possibly imagine. You might even ask yourself why you would want to continue reading several hundred pages about the vapid lives of a bunch of over privileged American brats. In response I say, yeah, I thought the same thing.

    Maddie, her husband Ellis, and their best friend Hank, publicly disgrace themselves at a New Years Eve party in the upper crust of Philadelphia society and embarrass their family to the point of being cut off financially. In order to win back their money and their place among society's elite, they travel to Scotland, amid the horrors and dangers of WWII, in order to capture photographic evidence of the famed Loch Ness Monster. (There is a backstory that validates this move, I promise).

    Once in Scotland however, and ensconced in a local inn, Maddie's relationship with Ellis begins to change as colors start to fly true under the weight of an uncertain future.

    - I'm a total sucker for this country. Any story, set in any time period in Scotland, is guaranteed to catch my interest. Holding it is another thing for sure, but I felt like Gruen populated her story with interesting local characters and folklore.

    - Yes, the Scots outshone their American expats in leaps and bounds when it came to integrity, honor, and love. Meg and Angus were my favorites.

    - I'm a sucker for this stuff too. I don't mind a bit of the fantastical in my stories as long as it isn't too heavy handed, and I really thought this was handled very nicely.

    - Just to clarify - I do not dislike romance in general. I just wasn't too happy with the way it was handled in this book. I read another review that said the latter half of this book read like a paperback romance novel and I laughed out loud because Yes. That really is exactly how I felt. The back half of the book was so very different from the first part.

    Only, I don't feel like the development was all there. It was like suddenly, halfway through the book, these characters realized they loved each other. There was hardly any buildup and I would have liked to have seen more development before hand.

    - I just didn't feel like the elements of war were blended into the story very well. There were periodic air raids and rationing of food and supplies, but we would go for lengths of time without any mention of war and then come to a chapter where a load of facts and info were suddenly dropped into our laps - how many Jews had been liberated at a concentration camp, how many German soldiers annihilated by the Russian army, refugees and fallen cities, and horrific tales of Nazi cruelty - usually gleaned from radio broadcasts or the local paper. I kind of think the war was touching the character's lives enough already and we could have done without the surplus information.

    As I was reading along I thought to myself,

    The answer? Water for Elephants of course.

    Let me explain:

    Maddie is married to Ellis. Ellis turns out to be a lying coward of a douchebag who fakes being color blind so he can avoid the draft. (He also "won" her in a coin toss with his best friend) He is an alcoholic and an addict who steals Maddie's "nerve" pills and pops them hand over fist all day long, chasing them with whiskey or beer or whatever the hell else he can get his hands on. He has no clue how to please her sexually and is verbally and emotionally abusive as hell when he's wasted - which is pretty much all the time. He actually wants to have her lobotomized and tries to gaslight her by convincing her that she really is paranoid and crazy.

    In short - he's an abusive ass.

    Enter Angus - an ex war hero with a tragic past. He's lost his entire family. He now runs the inn that Maddie finds herself staying in, mostly by herself as Ellis and Hank leave for days on end for "research". Maddie finds out about Angus's past and the wife who drowned herself in Loch Ness when she got a telegram that told her Angus had died in battle (he hadn't, obviously, the information was incorrect).

    When Maddie goes down to the Loch herself thinking about suicide, a force of some kind comes out of the water and knocks her back. We get the indication that this force is Angus's dead wife, whose body was never found. She essentially becomes the mythical creature in Loch Ness for the sake of this story.

    Angus and Maddie begin to develop a relationship and when Ellis finds out, he tries to get Angus arrested for poaching - a sentence that would carry a two year prison term.

    When Maddie finds out what Ellis has done, she confronts him and he tries to kill her. Only Angus rescues her, and when the police go to arrest Ellis for attempted murder, he's found drowned at the edge of Loch Ness in less than two inches of water.

    Both are girls who were born into less than fortunate circumstances and were raised up to higher levels by dubious men in their lives who only want to use them for their own personal gain.

    Both complete asses. Both very controlling of everything about their wives. Both abuse their wives verbally, mentally, emotionally and physically. Both attempt to have their rivals removed from the situation in dastardly ways. There is a lot at stake for both men to lose - and their wives are not at the top of that list. Both die at the end by the hands of something not human: August by Rosie the Elephant. Ellis by the "Loch Ness Monster".

    Both men lose their entire families. Both men fall in love with the fragile women that are forbidden to them. Both men show these women more love than their own husbands ever have. Both men succeed and get the girls after their rivals have died.

    Both are the creatures around which our characters gather and develop. Both have incredible effects on revealing the true natures of certain characters and tearing one couple apart while bringing together another. Both are responsible for the deaths of the most reprehensible characters.

    So there you have it. At Water's Edge is essentially Water for Elephants, set in Scotland, with the Loch Ness Monster instead of Rosie the Elephant.

    Don't get me wrong. It was an enjoyable story, though I rate Water for Elephants much higher. I just hope that Sara Gruen will find herself a new formula before her readers catch on, because I do think she's a talented and creative writer and hopefully not a one trick pony.

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