At the Water’s Edge – Sara Gruen
At the Water’s Edge begins in the high society of Philadelphia, USA. Maddie, her husband Ellis and their best friend Hank, are rich, spoiled socialites living in their privileged bubble. The three of them disgrace themselves at an important party, which is nothing out of the ordinary for them, and the married couple find themselves with their allowance cut and their dignity at stake.
After a huge row with Ellis’ parents, who they live with and who provides them with their allowance, Maddie and Ellis soon find themselves thrown out of the house. Ellis and Hank feel the only way forward is to travel across the Atlantic to the Scottish Highlands to hunt down the Loch Ness monster – something Ellis’ father very public failed at years before.
Much to Maddie’s dismay they embark on this journey, oh and World War II is going on around them, but of course the three are oblivious.
The story is told from the first person perspective of Maddie. I started off not liking her very much at all as she was naively ignorant and disturbingly privileged. However, the War is hard to ignore in the Scottish Highlands, as it was in Philadelphia, and Maddie soon sobers up and is often deeply moved and upset by the signs of war around her. Her husband and Hank on the other hand, bashfully continue their hunt for the monster, taking no account or consideration of the locals or the war.
As the story develops, so does Maddie’s character and this was very pleasing and done very authentically. She gradually builds up strong and sincere relationships with the locals she is in daily contact with and she deeply feels the impact and tragedy of the War going on. The more her character develops, the more conflicted she becomes about the kind of person her husband is. Maddie also reflects on her past throughout the book and this helps the reader to understand her and empathise with her.
The circumstances they find themselves in put them in situations which bring out the character of each of them to the truest light and this was done very cleverly.
The book started off quite slow but as it progressed it was clear that this was necessary for Maddie’s development to be as important as it was.
I loved this book for many reasons. The beautiful settings of the Highlands, a place dear to my heart. The way it showed the impact WWII had on each and every person; the lives lost; the way of life, from the rationing to carrying around a gas mask everywhere. It made it very real. The hints and traces of Scottish mythology throughout this story were charming and were fitting due to the heart of the story being about the Loch.
I adored this book and I thought it was a beautiful story. I found myself unable to put the book down the more I read and it became my companion when I was getting ready in the morning, while I was cooking dinner, befor I went to bed. The story was beautifully written with a heartbreaking core.
“I stared at him for a long time. If he wanted to end his search for the beast, he need look no further than a mirror.”
“For a short time I thought I might say something, but the silence rose and overwhelmed me, a vast, oppressive thing that billowed around me until I was sealed within it.”