In her stunning new novel, Gruen returns to the kind of storytelling she excelled at in Water for Elephants: a historical timeframe in an unusual setting with a moving love story. Think Scottish Downton Abbey.
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. (Goodreads)
It's a book review week as I'm so behind on revisions for my summer release that I haven't had time to think about much else, let alone come up with anything intelligent to say (though of course that's assuming I say anything intelligent to begin with, and that's highly suspect). Anyhow, if you come across this, it's probably me:
On to the book, and thanks to LibraryThing and the publisher for awarding me a copy in exchange for my honest review:
I have a confession: I haven't read Water for Elephants, nor have I seen the film. It's just not something I've been particularly interested in. However, throw in the Lock Ness monster, Scotland, and WWII? Well, that's another thing altogether. I went into this really excited, but I soon found myself a little less than enthused about Maddie. Let's be honest: she's kind of frustrating, particularly at the beginning. Self-centered, entitled, way too rich--pretty much characteristics that leave me a little put-off. She does grow quite a bit throughout the novel, and did grow on me as well, though I still found her a bit weak, even at the end. However, I don't think that all female characters must be crazy strong, as diversity in strength of character is needed as well. I just don't do so well with weaker females. Still, I did find her situation interesting and enjoyed her transformation. Her husband is horrific and I felt that part of the novel was particularly well done, even if it left a sour taste in my mouth. The romance left something to be desired, as I really didn't feel like the characters got to know one another at all and it almost came off as insta-love. Now, a strong Scottish man can pull this off, but Outlander has set the bar too high to be reached by many other Highlander men ;)
Overall, this was an interesting read and insight into a different social strata and way of life during the war. I found it engaging and definitely ripped through the novel, though overall I did find parts of it lacking.
Has Outlander set your sights high on kilted men? Do you believe in the Loch Ness monster? Shout it out in the comments!