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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 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.


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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 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.

30 review for At the Water's Edge

  1. 5 out of 5

    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.......But then I read the prologue and the gravestone and the story about Mairi, the loss of her infant daughter, the telegram of her 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.......But then I read the prologue and the gravestone and the story about Mairi, the loss of her infant daughter, the telegram of her new husband lost in battle and what resulted from her broken heart realizing there was more to this novel than some self-indulgent rich brats on a monster hunt......and there is.What you'll find hidden around the search for the Loch Ness monster is a fair-to-middling romance story set in an atmospheric 1945 Scotland at war complete with blackouts and air-raids, some eerie superstitions and folklore, a ghostly apparition with a message, and a once gullible rich girl who finds the meaning of friendship and true love. As for the two despicable, lying, cold-blooded, immoral rich lads, well let's just say they get their comeuppance.Overall, At The Water's Edge is often predictable and does not compare to Water For Elephants IMHO, but it does have its moments.

  2. 5 out of 5

    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 bo 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 . .

  3. 4 out of 5

    Brightness

    Water for Elephants, set in Scotland, with the Loch Ness Monster instead of Rosie the Elephant. WARNING: - THERE BE SPOILERS AHEAD 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 El Water for Elephants, set in Scotland, with the Loch Ness Monster instead of Rosie the Elephant. WARNING: - THERE BE SPOILERS AHEAD 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. What I loved: Scotland: - 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. Local Characters: - 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. Folklore and Superstition: - 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. What I disliked: Romance: - 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. WWII: - 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. Ellis & Maddie & Angus: - **Here's where I gets really spoilery.** **Seriously...YOU'VE BEEN WARNED!!!** As I was reading along I thought to myself, hmmmmmm...where have I seen this before... 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. So here we go: Water for Elephants/At Water's Edge Marlena/Maddie: 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. August/Ellis: 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". Jacob/Angus: 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. Rosie/Nessie: 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.

  4. 4 out of 5

    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?

  5. 5 out of 5

    Leanne

    It's been so long since I read Water for Elephants 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 At the Water's Edge is not quite that - it didn't excite me or lift my heart the way Water 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 W It's been so long since I read Water for Elephants 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 At the Water's Edge is not quite that - it didn't excite me or lift my heart the way Water 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.

  6. 4 out of 5

    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 ent 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 (view spoiler)[the love interest ends up secretly being landed gentry, and the heroes get huge inheritances all 'round! Money! Manors! Yay! (hide spoiler)] . 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.

  7. 5 out of 5

    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.

  8. 4 out of 5

    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 mor 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?!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Phrynne

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

  10. 5 out of 5

    Elyse 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!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Alena

    So very, excrutiatingly, needlessly, over-dramatically, agonizingly over-written. The pathos practically drips off the pages with no humor and very little action to provide release. And it's really a shame, because Gruen has a good story and has some good characters I really wanted to care about. But, my God, ease up a little. The same is true for the historical fiction aspect. What she did so remarkably in Water for Elephants in opening up a hidden world, she fails at here. It felt more like she So very, excrutiatingly, needlessly, over-dramatically, agonizingly over-written. The pathos practically drips off the pages with no humor and very little action to provide release. And it's really a shame, because Gruen has a good story and has some good characters I really wanted to care about. But, my God, ease up a little. The same is true for the historical fiction aspect. What she did so remarkably in Water for Elephants in opening up a hidden world, she fails at here. It felt more like she was trying to impress me with facts and figures from WWII, instead of opening up the Scottish experience. (That's truly dangerous considering the number of outstanding WWII novels published lately.) None of this was helped by the breathless, sappy narration of the audio version. I guess I'm not recommending this one.

  12. 5 out of 5

    RitaSkeeter

    I didn't like Water for Elephants. In fact, I hated it. I stopped reading it with 50 pages left, tossed it in the library donation bin and have refused to pick up anything by the author since. Until now. The combination of a historical set in Scotland during WW2 with 'Nessie' thrown in for good measure, was just too enticing not to try; even for me. I kind of envisaged something a bit like the film 'The Water Horse'. For the first hundred pages or so I cursed my curiosity for getting the better o I didn't like Water for Elephants. In fact, I hated it. I stopped reading it with 50 pages left, tossed it in the library donation bin and have refused to pick up anything by the author since. Until now. The combination of a historical set in Scotland during WW2 with 'Nessie' thrown in for good measure, was just too enticing not to try; even for me. I kind of envisaged something a bit like the film 'The Water Horse'. For the first hundred pages or so I cursed my curiosity for getting the better of me, as the author presented me with three of the most selfish, self-absorbed, irresponsible twats I'd ever had the mispleasure of reading about. Maddie, Ellis, and Hugh were all despicable people and I'd half wished they'd not survived their Atlantic crossing. But then a curious thing happened. Following a rocky start in Scotland, we come to know more of Maddie. We learn of her childhood, and we see her grow as a character until the point where I not only have empathy for her, but also like her. Whilst this is ostensibly a book set during WW2 and includes the search for Nessie, more than anything this is a book about Maddie's search for herself, her search for happiness, and for the love she has never had. Life. There it was. In all it's beautiful, tragic fragility, there was still life, and those of us who'd been lucky enough to survive opened our arms wide and embraced it. The way you are approaching this book will impact on your reading experience. Those desiring a serious historical or literary fiction will likely be disappointed. This is historic 'lite' fiction, with a strong romantic storyline. I think you can always tell an excellent historical fiction by the way they weave you into an era without heavy information dumps. This is not excellent historical fiction, and the author is heavy handed with her information dumps. I understand she was likely wanting to remind us what was happening in Europe, but they were unnecessary, clumsy, and drew the reader out of the story. No-one is more surprised than I am at how much I enjoyed this book. I'd even go so far as to say I loved it. It's not a perfect book but it was an engrossing and enjoyable read.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Whitney Atkinson

    3.5 Stars This book was enjoyable! I listened to most of it on audiobook, and I would recommend it because it was interesting enough to capture my attention for the entirety; not a single part dragged and made me play the audiobook at 3x speed just to get through it. The main downfall to this book is that there's so many facets to it, and it doesn't necessarily check each of those boxes completely. There's romance, but it's not a romance story. It's historical fiction, but it's not a World War II 3.5 Stars This book was enjoyable! I listened to most of it on audiobook, and I would recommend it because it was interesting enough to capture my attention for the entirety; not a single part dragged and made me play the audiobook at 3x speed just to get through it. The main downfall to this book is that there's so many facets to it, and it doesn't necessarily check each of those boxes completely. There's romance, but it's not a romance story. It's historical fiction, but it's not a World War II story. They're trying to find the Loch Ness Monster, but it's not a loch ness story. All in all, it was really difficult to pin down exactly what this was trying to do. I finally realized, I think it's because this book deals in a lot of sexism. Since it's the 40s, women are still battling a lot of oppression, and Maddie's life is no exception. Therefore, she's kind of just being driven around by her husband in this book, and it made her life (and therefore, the plot of this book) seem sort of aimless. This book could have been more powerful if it were given some sort of subplot about liberation or a woman who is able to overcome the standards of society, but we're never really given that. That being said, I did enjoy the romantic tidbits in this and I thought that Maddie was a likeable main character, despite her constant bending to the will of her husband. That being said, for the time period, I understand her actions. The thing that saved this book was the female friendships it presented and how there was a clear antagonism of the men in her life who tried to overpower her. TLDR; it's an enjoyable story, it just felt like a watered down down version of what I think it could have been.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    The author Sara Gruen has indicated in several online interviews that she has held a long-standing fascination with the Loch Ness monster starting at the age of twelve when she first visited Urquhart Castle. As such, a monster-related plot creates a backdrop for Ms. Gruen's historical fiction novel At the Water's Edge. Although unique, it's just there in the background allowing more impressive themes to shine, such as war, culture, gender roles in history, friendship, marriage, love, mental heal The author Sara Gruen has indicated in several online interviews that she has held a long-standing fascination with the Loch Ness monster starting at the age of twelve when she first visited Urquhart Castle. As such, a monster-related plot creates a backdrop for Ms. Gruen's historical fiction novel At the Water's Edge. Although unique, it's just there in the background allowing more impressive themes to shine, such as war, culture, gender roles in history, friendship, marriage, love, mental health, addiction, abuse, family issues, social status, and allowing yourself to re-evaluate the world you live in and grow. Overall, I liked At the Water's Edge and would recommend it to fans of Sara Gruen or women's/historical fiction. Check it out! My favorite quote: “I paused beneath the arched entrance, where the drawbridge had once been, imagining all the people who had passed in and out over the centuries, every one of them carrying a combination of desire, hope, jealousy, despair, grief, love, and every other human emotion; a combination that made each one as unique as a snowflake, yet linked all of them inextricably to every other human being from the dawn of time to the end of it.”

  15. 4 out of 5

    Pamela

    Some books are challenging to rate. The Waters Edge is case in point: summation of its parts didn't equate a grand whole. Many of the literary elements, such as symbolism, foreshadowing, the infusion of mythic folklore, and atmosphere as a character, were all quite good. Maddie's character growth/transformation was notable. And I thought the 'monster' theme represented throughout in terms of war, mental illness, alcoholism, greed, jealousy enriched the story immensely. Then too, there were many t Some books are challenging to rate. The Waters Edge is case in point: summation of its parts didn't equate a grand whole. Many of the literary elements, such as symbolism, foreshadowing, the infusion of mythic folklore, and atmosphere as a character, were all quite good. Maddie's character growth/transformation was notable. And I thought the 'monster' theme represented throughout in terms of war, mental illness, alcoholism, greed, jealousy enriched the story immensely. Then too, there were many things I didn't like: contrived plot points, excessive use of expletives, unexplainable and/or unrealistic actions, magical/mystical spiritualism scenes seemed abruptly inserted and out of sync with the overall tone of the story, serendipitous ending.... I could go on, but my goal is to critique with tact, not a hacksaw. Categorically: Literary elements and nuances: 4 Stars Characterization: 3 Stars Fluidity and story-thread: 3 Stars Micro story elements: 2 Stars Setting/atmosphere: 4 Stars Personal preference in terms of language and sexual content: 1 Star Overall: THREE *** Literary Nuance Strong, Micro Element Weak *** STARS

  16. 4 out of 5

    Wendy

    I thoroughly enjoyed Like Water For Elephants, by Sara Gruen, and was thrilled to be given the opportunity to read this authors latest novel, At The Water's Edge. Set during WWII, Maddie, her husband Ellis and his best friend Hank leave their pampered high society lives in Philadelphia after falling out of grace with family. To prove themselves they cross the ocean, during this tumultuous time, in search of the Loch Ness Monster. They quickly discover a whole new world they are not accustomed to I thoroughly enjoyed Like Water For Elephants, by Sara Gruen, and was thrilled to be given the opportunity to read this authors latest novel, At The Water's Edge. Set during WWII, Maddie, her husband Ellis and his best friend Hank leave their pampered high society lives in Philadelphia after falling out of grace with family. To prove themselves they cross the ocean, during this tumultuous time, in search of the Loch Ness Monster. They quickly discover a whole new world they are not accustomed to that includes bomb shelters, gas masks, food rations just to name a few. Maddie accepts the primitive conditions, but Hank and Ellis are resistant. She begins to grow as a person and connect with the people in the Scottish village while the two men become self-obsessed, cranky and cruel. Recognizing the sham her marriage has become puts Maddie on the path to independence. I loved the relationship that grew between Maddie, Meg, Anna and especially Angus. Wonderful storytelling set in a historical timeframe in an unusual setting with a moving love story. Highly Recommended!

  17. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    Disappointing. Reads like the author took her half finished WWII era novel and threw it in a blender with a Highland romance she was thinking about. Mixed that up sprinkled it with some humor. Then finished off with some nice cliches throughout.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    (Nearly 3.5) Gruen does a great job of bringing her settings and time periods to life. The first third or so of the novel was particularly promising, as she introduces her characters in upper-crust wartime Philadelphia and then sends them to rural Scotland on a hunt for the Loch Ness monster. I especially enjoyed the Hollywood-esque love triangle of the early sections – Hank and Ellis buzzing around Maddie made me think of Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire fighting over the female lead in Holiday Inn (Nearly 3.5) Gruen does a great job of bringing her settings and time periods to life. The first third or so of the novel was particularly promising, as she introduces her characters in upper-crust wartime Philadelphia and then sends them to rural Scotland on a hunt for the Loch Ness monster. I especially enjoyed the Hollywood-esque love triangle of the early sections – Hank and Ellis buzzing around Maddie made me think of Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire fighting over the female lead in Holiday Inn. Gruen invites such cinematic comparisons with this line: “If Hank was Clark Gable, then Ellis was a towheaded, clean-shaved Errol Flynn.” However, I would have liked more of the actual search for the Loch Ness monster and less of the melodrama around illnesses, domestic violence, family inheritance, death, divorce, etc., etc. (I also suspect you’ll get mighty sick of hearing about colorblindness.) Hank and Ellis sort of disappear from the picture and leave Maddie to her own devices in a quaint Scottish pub, where she becomes little more than a household servant and finds herself attracted to a widower with a tragic backstory. Moreover, the ending is far too neat and tidy. For every element I liked, there was one I disliked. Still, something about the novel’s overall atmosphere was very cozy; I don’t necessarily see the “Scottish Downton Abbey” comparisons, but I do think this is, like Downton, a guilty pleasure for a Sunday evening.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Mandy

    I love this book! 5 stars! Beautifully written and left me wanting more. I love stories of war and love and Gruen drew me right into this one as she did with Water for Elephants. Would love to see a sequel to this to see where the characters went from the end.

  20. 4 out of 5

    ☮Karen

    The idea of three wealthy young Americans sailing off to Scotland in the middle of WWII just to try to prove that the Loch Ness monster was real and to salvage the reputation of one of their fathers seemed rather silly and far-fetched to me. But I was engaged by the dangerous adventure itself and their aim to prove some things to the world, and not just that the monster existed. The men, Ellis and Hank, have been outcast from society and from their own families because, due to color blindness an The idea of three wealthy young Americans sailing off to Scotland in the middle of WWII just to try to prove that the Loch Ness monster was real and to salvage the reputation of one of their fathers seemed rather silly and far-fetched to me. But I was engaged by the dangerous adventure itself and their aim to prove some things to the world, and not just that the monster existed. The men, Ellis and Hank, have been outcast from society and from their own families because, due to color blindness and flat feet, they could not enroll in the service as every man their age had done. Maddie is married to Ellis, although she really doesn't know why because they are more like old pals than husband/wife. Their carefree, shallow life in America consisted of parties and alcohol before feeling the urge to flee to Scotland. The trip will change things more than anyone could imagine. As Ellis and Hank begin spending every waking moment either looking for the monster or getting drunk, Maddie becomes more and more bored and disgusted with them both, and more involved with the staff at the inn where they are staying. She secretly offers to help clean rooms and bartend--secretly, because Ellis is a snob and jerk beyond measure. You don't help the "help." Maddie also begins to question Ellis' every move and motive, including his possibly feigned color blindness. As her marriage crumbles, her own self worth emerges and she starts to appreciate her times without the jerk. Combining adventure, danger, history, Scottish folklore, friendship, loyalty, heroism, and love, not to mention monsters of all kinds, there is much to enjoy on these pages. My thanks to Random House Publishing and NetGalley.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Brenda

    The pounding headache that Maddie Hyde was suffering after the New Year’s Eve party the night before had her cringing – she tried desperately to remember the events of the latter part of the evening and when she did she realized with horror that she and her husband Ellis had made dreadful fools of themselves. Along with best friend Hank the three had disgraced themselves in front of many of the high society elite at the Philadelphia event. In quick succession, Ellis’ mother and father were morti The pounding headache that Maddie Hyde was suffering after the New Year’s Eve party the night before had her cringing – she tried desperately to remember the events of the latter part of the evening and when she did she realized with horror that she and her husband Ellis had made dreadful fools of themselves. Along with best friend Hank the three had disgraced themselves in front of many of the high society elite at the Philadelphia event. In quick succession, Ellis’ mother and father were mortified and enraged; ex Colonel Hyde immediately ejected the pair from their home and cut all financial support to them both. They were dumbfounded – but Ellis and Hank quickly decided the best thing to do was head to Scotland to search for the Loch Ness monster; surely this would see favour and restore finances with the Colonel? Ellis insisted on Maddie travelling with them – the only problem of course was in 1943 there was a war on; Hitler didn’t care about wealthy socialites… The journey by sea from America to Scotland was horrendous – Maddie was incredibly ill and they were all convinced they would die. But their arrival in Scotland eventuated; the disfavour of the locals was high. What were these two young men, fit and able as they looked, doing gallivanting around when they should have been fighting for their country? And the insanity of bringing a woman with them – what were they thinking? On a daily basis, Ellis and Hank left Maddie alone at the inn where she was subjected to the disdain of the staff and regulars; and while they searched for the monster and drank themselves silly. Bored and frustrated, she began to make friends with Anna and Meg who both worked at the inn. Maddie also took to wandering the countryside – she slowly came to realize things weren’t as they should be; mysterious secrets were afoot. And suddenly she realized there was danger – had she made the biggest mistake of her life? I thoroughly enjoyed At the Water’s Edge by author Sara Gruen – I had previously read Water for Elephants and loved it – this one didn’t disappoint. The beginning saw three spoilt young people who didn’t know how to lift a finger for themselves. The growth in Maddie was done with humility and understanding; the two young men were full of their own importance. The story has mystery and intrigue; its compelling nature so much that I had difficulty putting it down. I have no hesitation in recommending At the Water’s Edge very highly. With thanks to Allen & Unwin for my uncorrected proof to read and review.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Veronica Moore

    A vapid protagonist makes for a vapid read. Anecdotal history scattered haphazardly throughout (a stretch to use the tragedies of WWII to bolster a tepid story) successfully clarified only how uninterested I was in the main plot: the Loch Ness Monster search by a true-life monster of a husband? And even then, his monstrosity was less convincing than that of the Nessie herself. Sad to give such a lackluster review, particularly when Water for Elephants has such magic. Subsequent work will always n A vapid protagonist makes for a vapid read. Anecdotal history scattered haphazardly throughout (a stretch to use the tragedies of WWII to bolster a tepid story) successfully clarified only how uninterested I was in the main plot: the Loch Ness Monster search by a true-life monster of a husband? And even then, his monstrosity was less convincing than that of the Nessie herself. Sad to give such a lackluster review, particularly when Water for Elephants has such magic. Subsequent work will always need so much more than the first best to stay in high regard.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    I had a difficult time finishing this book. I absolutely loved Water for Elephants and was excited to dive into At the Waters Edge, but I just did not enjoy it in any way. Part of this may have been the fact that I listened to it on Audiobook, and the narrator was damned awful. I will not listen to another book narrated by the same person. That aside, I believe most of my dislike for it lays with the characters and story itself. I didn’t feel any connection or really even particularly like Matti I had a difficult time finishing this book. I absolutely loved Water for Elephants and was excited to dive into At the Waters Edge, but I just did not enjoy it in any way. Part of this may have been the fact that I listened to it on Audiobook, and the narrator was damned awful. I will not listen to another book narrated by the same person. That aside, I believe most of my dislike for it lays with the characters and story itself. I didn’t feel any connection or really even particularly like Mattie, Angus, Hank, Meg, and whoever else I’m forgetting (probably because they are very forgettable). The character of Ellis just felt confused, like the author wasn’t sure where she was going with him. I felt that most if not all characters were boring, rather one dimensional, and not memorable whatsoever. Story wise, I realized halfway through that I didn’t particularly care what happened because it was a terribly boring book. The one star I’ve given this is for the writing, because I like the way Sara Gruen writes. I hope her next book has more depth to the story as a whole.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Amber

    I liked this novel. It is a bit of a quiet story that mostly takes place in a Scotland village. Maddie joins her husband, Ellis, and their friend, Hank, to search out the Loch Ness monster during the end of WWII. These characters are privileged socialite snobs from Philadelphia. The story of the search for the monster is really a backdrop for the personal growth of Maddie into a stronger, more confident woman. They stay at an inn where Maddie is regularly left alone while Ellis and Hank search f I liked this novel. It is a bit of a quiet story that mostly takes place in a Scotland village. Maddie joins her husband, Ellis, and their friend, Hank, to search out the Loch Ness monster during the end of WWII. These characters are privileged socialite snobs from Philadelphia. The story of the search for the monster is really a backdrop for the personal growth of Maddie into a stronger, more confident woman. They stay at an inn where Maddie is regularly left alone while Ellis and Hank search for the creature. Since this story is told through the eyes of Maddie, we don’t see much action in terms of searching for the monster. We get to see Maddie try to fit in with the innkeepers and try to figure out how to fix her life dilemmas. I liked the drama that circled Maddie’s life. There were many secrets to be revealed and they were intriguing and scandalous. I liked the fact that Gruen included some despicable characters that I loved to hate. Much of the talk of the war seemed forced into the book. It felt natural for some of war time elements to be included, but other facts were almost like reading from a newspaper. The ending was wrapped up quite nicely and I didn’t feel like anything was left unfinished. Other reviewers have said that they think the ending is too tidy, but I felt like it was nice to read a book with a proper ending and not having anything left up to interpretation for a change. Thank you to Random House and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of an ebook. I included 2 photos of the village they were staying in. I think it adds a cozy element to the atmosphere in the book.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Britany

    3.5 stars Farfetched. Fun. Loch Ness Monster. Lobotomies, oh my! I really found myself enjoying this lighthearted romp through Inverness. Maddie Hyde, her husband Ellis and their dear friend Hank Boyd find themselves living a Gatsby-esque lifestyle while both Ellis and Hank cannot enlist due to color blindness and flat feet. Ellis finds himself falling from his father's grace and decides to "save the day" by going to Scotland to capture the Loch Ness Monster on film- a feat his father attempted bu 3.5 stars Farfetched. Fun. Loch Ness Monster. Lobotomies, oh my! I really found myself enjoying this lighthearted romp through Inverness. Maddie Hyde, her husband Ellis and their dear friend Hank Boyd find themselves living a Gatsby-esque lifestyle while both Ellis and Hank cannot enlist due to color blindness and flat feet. Ellis finds himself falling from his father's grace and decides to "save the day" by going to Scotland to capture the Loch Ness Monster on film- a feat his father attempted but never succeeded at. Also, the book takes place towards the end of WWII, so you've got THAT going on... A little far fetched, but I let myself be swept away with the unreality of the storyline and completely fell in love with Maddie. I came to find parts extremely silly, but felt that they represented a certain subtype of the situation. (view spoiler)[ Completely fell in love with all the characters in Scotland- Anna, Meg, and Angus. For me, they made the book- and the fact that Maddie and Angus got together in the end??? Icing on that huge unrealistic cake! I ate it all up... (hide spoiler)]

  26. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    40% in and I'm throwing in the towel. I don't care what happens, not vested in characters or book. May try again, may not. Time to move on.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    The epilogue to this book is a nice hook. It draws you in and makes you want to know more. Unfortunately, that is not the story Gruen is telling, Mairi isn't even a character in this tale, it is Maddie's story, and Maddie's story is a cliche waiting to happen. I was OK with the oblivious rich people aspect in the beginning, but that started to wear thin. I became interested in the locals of this Scottish village and then that dissolved into either unrealistic or overly predictable fare. Gruen di The epilogue to this book is a nice hook. It draws you in and makes you want to know more. Unfortunately, that is not the story Gruen is telling, Mairi isn't even a character in this tale, it is Maddie's story, and Maddie's story is a cliche waiting to happen. I was OK with the oblivious rich people aspect in the beginning, but that started to wear thin. I became interested in the locals of this Scottish village and then that dissolved into either unrealistic or overly predictable fare. Gruen did just enough to keep me reading, but not enough to keep me from being disappointed about where it was going. In the end, it felt like I had just finished a fairytale without any of the excitement of witches and fairy-godmothers. DO NOT READ THIS IF YOU PLAN TO READ THE BOOK (view spoiler)[how convenient that Angus ends up being the Laird, Maddie gets all the riches of her father, the sex between them is so amazing and the sex she had with the husband is so bad it is non-existent (which makes no sense if you bother to remember that she was so in love in the first part of the book), the despicable beyond words Ellis dies, and all the other characters live happily ever after. (hide spoiler)] Nothing in life is that neat and tidy. I have another of her books on my shelf Water for Elephants. I saw the movie back when and thought it was pretty good, but I wonder if it won't be much the same experience as this and I might give it a pass.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Sterlingcindysu

    This would make a beautiful movie--just think of Scottish lairds, old Philadelphia upper-crust parties, war shots, hints of ghosts and Nessie. I'd watch that movie. Reading is different than watching, though. The reason why the main characters (Maddie-Ellis, husband-wife and friend Hank, all snobbish rich brats) to go Scotland during the last six months of WWII for Nessie-watching isn't believable to me. By the time more suspension of belief is needed, well, mine was all used up. I didn't like m This would make a beautiful movie--just think of Scottish lairds, old Philadelphia upper-crust parties, war shots, hints of ghosts and Nessie. I'd watch that movie. Reading is different than watching, though. The reason why the main characters (Maddie-Ellis, husband-wife and friend Hank, all snobbish rich brats) to go Scotland during the last six months of WWII for Nessie-watching isn't believable to me. By the time more suspension of belief is needed, well, mine was all used up. I didn't like most of the characters. That's fine when it's part of the characters themselves, but Gruen really paints Ellis with a wide black brush of villainy. (His character reminded me of the husband in Water for Elephants.) I kept confusing the two Scottish girls and older women. I liked the descriptions of the food rationing and what was served, gas masks and the air-raid shelter, clothing and bits of history. The term "righteous theft" was new to me and Gruen does a good job of outlining Scottish history so you know enough.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Vonia

    Sara Gruen. I have not read "Riding Lessons" because I have no interest in the equestrian world whatsoever. I did, of course, read "Water For Elephants". I really liked that one. Like in that novel, "At the Water's Edge" exemplifies Gruen's conscientious research. Like she demonstrated it in her historical circus exploration. She covers World War II overseas, focusing on a search for the Loch Ness Monster, Nessie for short- so that readers can still enjoy her wonderful imagination and whimsical Sara Gruen. I have not read "Riding Lessons" because I have no interest in the equestrian world whatsoever. I did, of course, read "Water For Elephants". I really liked that one. Like in that novel, "At the Water's Edge" exemplifies Gruen's conscientious research. Like she demonstrated it in her historical circus exploration. She covers World War II overseas, focusing on a search for the Loch Ness Monster, Nessie for short- so that readers can still enjoy her wonderful imagination and whimsical narratives. The other theme of focus is Maddie's relationship with her husband Ellis and her in-laws. Her in-laws hate her, and- at a lesser level- their son. Her because she does not fit into their high class regal society and because her mother was notoriously institutionalized for her mental health; him because his color-blindness forbid him from joining the army. On these last day of 19__, at a New Year Eve's Party, Maddie, Ellis, and his best friend (more line a brother) Henry get ridiculously drunk and make a scene. Unfortunately, this is the last straw of many incidents and his parents cut him off financially. Sadly, Ellis has no other source of income. Against her wishes, Maddie follows the two overseas to find what could be merely a myth. The significance of the search for Nessie is that Ellis's father notoriously "found" it- that is, until his pictures were found to be fraudulent. Ellis decides that the only way to regain his father’s favor is to succeed in this venture that his father publicly failed at: he will hunt the famous Loch Ness monster and reclaim the family's reputation. Overall, I find "At The Water's Edge" to be a fun and interesting concept, always having been a fan of the imaginative and whimsical. The addition of World War to; mailing it a half historical fiction genre novel, half magical realism? A completely ridiculous choice. Ruined the book. Every single time I became immersed in the fantastical going ons of an adventure searching for a mythical creature, it was not long before the feeling was interrupted by some mention of bombing, running to the bomb shelter, gas masks, war rations, deaths of loved ones and soldiers, international turmoil, the president declaring the unfortunate state of affairs. The third topic tackled is Maddie's marriage. It is the first time she decides to step out of her role as a pampered wife under the tutelage of her in-laws, executing for the first time the tasks usually done her various maids and butlers. And with her newfound independence, comes the truth about Ellis. Much evidence is revealed that shows he is not the wonderful husband she always thought him to be. Could a divorce actually be in the cards- in a time when it was shunned? This would have been enough as a secondary narrative, accompanying that of the hunt for Nessie. World War II? Unnecessary and intrusive, making it seem like a marketing ploy by Gruen.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Amanda NEVER MANDY

    I should have quit this book a few chapters in and used my reading time on a better book. Goodreads has definitely changed my thoughts on quitting books. Listing them on my DNF shelf shows the reading world I gave up and marks it in my reading history as a failure. I can’t like that. Some people are competitive with others, but I am extremely competitive with myself. What was this book about? A girl and her two male best friends (one being her husband) live in the lap of luxury at the expense of I should have quit this book a few chapters in and used my reading time on a better book. Goodreads has definitely changed my thoughts on quitting books. Listing them on my DNF shelf shows the reading world I gave up and marks it in my reading history as a failure. I can’t like that. Some people are competitive with others, but I am extremely competitive with myself. What was this book about? A girl and her two male best friends (one being her husband) live in the lap of luxury at the expense of their parents. Final straws are drawn and the trio end up on a wild goose chase across the ocean during wartime. Things are said, attitudes change and our once clueless girl finally sees things as a grown ass woman should. This book was awful. The characters were horrible and the story was lame as hell. Everything about it was basic, predictable and infuriating. I would best describe this read as a muddled mess of a story buried under a layer of cliché characters such as vaudeville villains, a mean girl with a heart of gold, a let me show you the ropes new friend, a dark and mysterious heartthrob and a damsel in distress. It’s like it was half-assed trying to be so many different things when it should have just chose one and went all the way with it. A little bit of historical romance, a little bit of bodice-ripping and a whole lot of why did I waste my time reading this? Two stars to a story that has been done to death better by other authors.

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