Publisher : Mira
Adelia Montforte begins the summer of 1941 aboard a crowded ship bound for America, utterly alone yet free of Fascist Italy. Whisked away to the seaside by her well-meaning aunt and uncle, she slowly begins to adapt to her new life. That summer, she basks in the noisy affection of the boisterous Irish-Catholic boys next door, and although she adores all four of the Connally brothers, it’s the eldest, Charlie, she pines for. But all hopes for a future together are throttled by the creep of war and a tragedy that hits much closer to home.
Needing to distance herself from grief, Addie flees – first to Washington and then London, where the bombs still scream by night – and finds a passion at a prestigious newspaper. More so, she finds a purpose. A voice. And perhaps even a chance to redeem lost time, lost family – and lost love. But the past, never far behind, nips at her heels, demanding to be reckoned with. And in a final, fateful choice, Addie discovers that the way home may be a path she never suspected.
What Did I Think About the Story?
I read Pam Jenoff's novel The Winter Guest last year and it was one of my favorite books of 2014. It was the kind of book that had me adding her backlog to my wish list, it was that good. She has a way of presenting complex, unusual stories set during WWII that somehow give you a new angle on a much discussed topic while also making what the characters go through seem relatable and entirely absorbing. I just couldn't put the novel down and I am happy to say The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach was just as captivating.
What I appreciate most about the characters in this novel is how imperfect and therefore realistic they all are. These are fully formed beings that are trying to live and love, the best they can, in a time in history that made life anything but predictable. Addie and the Connally boys, especially Charlie and Liam, make many mistakes across the novel, running away from pain and grief, changing their minds about what they should do and where they should go as well as who they should love, and for me this makes them endearing even as I want to shake them around sometimes until they stop making their lives so complicated. People are not perfect so I love novels that don't try to make the characters appear that way.
For as much as occurs within the novel, it really doesn't eclipse that much time, just three short years. During that time we see our Addie go from feeling like an outsider in America to feeling like a part of a family with the Connally's, and then we see her go full circle with those feelings once again. We see a few love triangles, some poor decisions and one tragic accident that will break any reader's heart. While the war is always in the background and some of our characters do experience it head-on, The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach really isn't about the war as much as, say, The Winter Guest was, and for me this made it a very different read. At times I felt like I just had to hold on and weather the myriad of emotions these characters go through - love, joy, loneliness, acceptance, anger, jealousy, blinding sadness, duty, acceptance - in order to reach the conclusion they all had to get to eventually: the past cannot be changed and should not be ignored, but should be accepted for what it is so you can move on to the future you are meant, and want, to have. Without the hardships and heartaches they each went through they wouldn't have become the people they needed to be.
Clearly from my review you can see this was a character-driven novel for me, which isn't to say that the plot wasn't solid. I was completely immersed in the settings as they shifted from America to war-torn Europe and Ms. Jenoff did a great job, as I expected, of creating this well drawn world in which her story could unfold. There were a few parts that I didn't know quite why they were included, such as a portion dealing with Addie's need to rescue some orphaned children from France, but even those parts were enjoyable and didn't pull away from the central story being told.
I've said it before and I'll say it again now, Pam Jenoff's novels are top shelf historical fiction. If you love novels that incorporate history, especially WWII, and want something unlike the usual novel set during this time pick up her novels. The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach was a little heavier on the romance than I was expecting, but even those that aren't big on romantic themes will find much to love here. I'm a firm follower of Ms. Jenoff's and I look forward to reading much more from her.
What Did I Think About the Cover?
I love it! It has a classic, muted feel to the photograph which fits the time perfectly. The beach, of course, plays a huge part and the passion between the two people is spot on. I happen to love the color pink as well, so this soft version is beautiful. The only downside is that most of the men in the story (if I'm remembering correctly) were fair-haired, so the man on the cover doesn't really fit my image of anyone Addie would be kissing. Other than that it's perfect.
My Rating: 4.0/5.0
Thank you to TLC Book Tours for providing me with a free copy of The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach in exchange for an honest review! Be sure to continue below for information on the author, the blog tour and how you can grab your own copy!
Praise for The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach
“The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach is a heartfelt, stirring love story set against the turbulent backdrop of war-torn Europe and the American home front. Jenoff’s meticulous research, a feisty heroine, and a sweeping plot makes this book a real page-turner. A lovely story with a delicious and unexpected ending, The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach is definitely one for my keeper shelf.”—Karen White, New York Times bestselling author
“Pam Jenoff’s unforgettable story of a life disrupted by the chaos of war held me captive from beginning to end. When it comes to bringing an era to life, this author has no peer. It’s a powerful, moving drama of love, loss and redemption—heartbreaking, authentic and ultimately uplifting.”—Susan Wiggs, #1 New York Times bestselling author
“I won’t soon forget Adelia Monteforte, the strong, loving and compassionate heroine in Pam Jenoff’s The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach. I was moved by Adelia’s courage as she navigates family, career and a tender, surprising romance, all in the shadow of World War II. A warm and heartfelt story of emotional survival.”—Diane Chamberlain, bestselling author
Book Club Guide
Perusing the internet I chanced upon a WONDERFUL book club kit for The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach at bookclubbish.com. It has guidelines for planning your book club party (with a music playlist, recipes and more), possible discussion questions and a conversation with the author that you can read to give the group a look inside Pam Jenoff's inspirations behind the novel. I'm not in a book club but, if I were, I would want something like this to help me plan the best possible meeting. You can find the kit HERE.
Buy the Book
About the Author
Pam Jenoff is the Quill-nominated internationally bestselling author of The Kommadant’s Girl. She holds a bachelor’s degree in international affairs from George Washington University and a master’s degree in history from Cambridge, and she received her Juris Doctor from the University of Pennsylvania. Jenoff’s novels are based on her experiences working at the Pentagon and also as a diplomat for the State Department handling Holocaust issues in Poland. She lives with her husband and three children near Philadelphia where, in addition to writing, she teaches law school.
I am so excited to be able to offer a finished copy of The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach AND a Chelsea Beach limited edition beach bag to one lucky winner (US/Canada only)! All you have to do is enter your name and email address on the giveaway form HERE. Please be sure to leave both your name and your email on the form so I can contact you if you are my winner (no email address, no entry!). For extra entries you can follow the blog in various ways (all links are on the right hand sidebar) and leave the name/email you follow with on the form. That's it!
I'll use a random number generator to pick a winner on August 27th, 2015 and will announce the winner here as well as email the winner for their mailing address. The winner will have 48 hours to respond to my email before I have to pick another winner. If you have already won this giveaway on another site please let me know so I can pick a new winner and give someone else a chance to win a copy of this great book.
The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach Blog Tour Schedule
Tuesday, July 28th: Raven Haired Girl – review and guest post
Tuesday, July 28th: The Lit Bitch
Wednesday, July 29th: Bewitched Bookworms – excerpt #1
Thursday, July 30th: Book Reviews and More by Kathy – excerpt #2
Saturday, August 1st: Romantic Historical Reviews – excerpt #3
Monday, August 3rd: Just One More Chapter
Monday, August 3rd: Books a la Mode – author guest post
Tuesday, August 4th: The Romance Dish
Wednesday, August 5th: Bibliotica
Thursday, August 6th: Mom in Love with Fiction
Monday, August 10th: Read Love Blog – author guest post
Tuesday, August 11th: West Metro Mommy Reads
Wednesday, August 12th: Let Them Read Books – Q&A
Friday, August 14th: Written Love Reviews
Monday, August 17th: A Chick Who Reads
Monday, August 17th: Luxury Reading – guest post
Tuesday, August 18th: A Novel Review
Wednesday, August 19th: Savvy Verse and Wit
Thursday, August 20th: A Literary Vacation
Friday, August 21st: Kritter’s Ramblings – Review and Q&A
Monday, August 24th: One Curvy Blogger
Tuesday, August 25th: The Reading Date
Wednesday, August 26th: Time 2 Read
Thursday, August 27th: Life is Story
Friday, August 28th: Bookshelf Fantasies
TBD: Lavish Bookshelf