Publisher's Note:  

In this new novel from the author of Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen again demonstrates her talent for creating spellbinding period pieces. At the Water’s Edge is a gripping and poignant love story about a privileged young woman’s personal awakening as she experiences the devastations of World War II in a Scottish Highlands village.
Madeline Hyde, a young socialite from Philadelphia, reluctantly follows her husband and their best friend to the tiny village of Drumnadrochit in search of a mythical monster—at the same time that a very real monster, Hitler, wages war against the Allied Forces. What Maddie discovers—about the larger world and about herself—through the unlikely friendships she develops with the villagers, opens her eyes not only to the dark forces that exist around her but to the beauty and surprising possibilities.

This book was sent to Compass Book Ratings for review by Random House

At the Water's Edge: A Novel

by Sara Gruen

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Overall Review:  

I have read each and every one of Sara Gruen's previous books, and though I would have to say I liked her books Riding Lessons and Flying Changes the best, all of her other books have been delightful. At the Water's Edge reminded me a little bit of Water for Elephants--mostly because of the historical aspect. I can't really think of any books to compare this one to, but it was a fast-paced and entertaining read.


Personally, I would have liked to have seen more detail on the mysterious sea monster that the main characters Madeline, Ellis, and Hank are supposed to be hunting throughout the story. I have always been fascinated by mysterious creatures and phenomena that no one can explain, and the Loch Ness Monster is one of my favorites. Throughout this book, the monster is mentioned, and there are several scenes involving the hunting of it, but not much detail on that front. Instead, much of the story is dedicated to Madeline and her struggles living as a woman in a time of war, and how she wishes she were considered more of an equal to the men in her life.


I enjoyed how rambunctious Madeline was, and how her character was portrayed as a strong womanly figure, not afraid to stand up for herself. Often, the men she keeps company with are crude and look down upon women, but Madeline views herself as someone who is perfectly capable of holding her own in their presence. If you enjoyed any of Sara Gruen's previous books, you won't want to miss At the Water's Edge.

Review of Advance Review Copy

Content Analysis:  

Profanity/Language:  16 religious exclamations; 9 mild obscenities; 8 religious profanities; 2 derogatory names; 2 scatological words; 13 F-Word derivatives.

Note:  Use of "bloody" as a curse word not tallied.


Violence/Gore: A woman is said to mourn the loss of her husband who died in a war; a brief description of a stillbirth is given, with minimal blood; a character is briefly depicted to drown self; a frightening scene in a boat is described, some passengers fall overboard and must be rescued, the boat is being attacked by torpedoes; injured people are described, their skin burned, and flesh melted and deformed; a soldier is described to be killed in a war; war violence is described in a brief scene along with a death toll; two characters disappear, to return later unharmed; a man speaks threateningly to his wife; a mention of a boy dying at war; a character reports the numbers of those killed in a death camp; a man slaps a woman; a character has a head injury, some blood is described briefly; a scary scene involving a creature is described briefly; a character drowns at sea; a man attempts to drown a woman; attempted murder is mentioned.


Sex/Nudity:  An affair is speculated about; a man and woman have intercourse in one brief scene with no explicit details; a married woman runs off with a man that is not her husband; a woman finds postcards with pornographic images on the front, the nudes are briefly described; a woman is depicted nude in one brief scene; men admire women for their bodies, this is mentioned several times; a married woman cheats on her husband; adults kiss several times.

Mature Subject Matter:  

Death, war, infidelity, suicide, attempted murder, infidelity.

Alcohol / Drug Use:  

Prescription drug abuse; men smoke; men are drunk at a party; drinking of champagne at a party; men drink whiskey.

Reviewed By Lydia
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