"At the Water's Edge" by Sara Gruen

After embarrassing themselves at a New Year’s Eve event for members of Philadelphia’s high society, Maddie and Ellis Hyde are financially cut off by his father and left completely on their own.  Ellis has already disappointed his father, a former army Colonel, by not being able to serve in WWII due to his colourblindness.  There is only one way he can think of regaining his favour - to hunt down the famous Loch Ness monster, a feat his father attempted but failed to do.

But it is 1942 and a war rages on overseas.  This won’t stop Ellis though, and along with their friend Hank, they set off for Scotland.    While Ellis and Hank spend their days hunting the monster, Maddie is left on her own back at the inn.  As she tries to adapt to a new country and a new station in life, she begins to figure out that her life isn’t what she thought it is.  As her eyes are opened to the world around her, she discovers a strength she didn’t know she had and a brand new kind of love.

At the Water’s Edge, by Sara Gruen, is a beautiful novel of friendship and love set in an uncertain time period.  Mixing in a bit of the mystical, it is a quiet novel that flows beautifully from page to page.

I’m probably one of the few people who hasn’t read Water for Elephants, which this book will inevitably be compared to given how much it was loved.  So I can’t compare the books for you but I can tell you that I did enjoy this one very much.

Hank, Ellis, and Maddie aren’t very likeable people.  They come from money and haven’t had to work a day in their lives.  At the height of WWII, Hank and Ellis are unable to enlist in the army due to Ellis’ colourblindness and Hank’s flat-footedness.  And so the three of them spend their days sleeping late and partying through the night.  But when they lose their fortune, they plot to get it back in an extreme fashion.

I must admit, I thought this part a little out there.  I love the plot of the three of them trying to find the Loch Ness monster, but making their way across the Atlantic during a war?  Well, I guess they had to get to Scotland somehow.  

I loved the female characters in this book.  At the beginning, Maddie was difficult to love but you can tell there is more to her than meets the eye.  In Scotland, Anna and Meg are strong women, representative of the millions of people facing the horrors of the Second World War.  Watching the friendship form between these women and Maddie was such a strength of this book.  

Here’s the most important thing you need to know when you begin to read the book.  Maddie, Ellis, and Hank are not great people.  They are spoiled, obnoxious, and unlikeable.  And yes, if the whole book was with them acting the way they do in the first half, it would not be an enjoyable book to read.  But it’s necessary that they start out this way.  Some characters you will dislike the whole way through, some characters will find their way into your heart.  Give the book some time to develop, I don't think you will be disappointed.  

I received a copy of this book courtesy of Random House of Canada.  The opinions expressed above are my own.


  1. I've never read Gruen either but am quite interested in this one. And yes, the Scottish connection is grabbing me.
    And just because i think you may share my own quirky sense of humor mixed with highbrow pretensions, have you seen Werner Hertzog's movie The Incident at Loch Ness? Well worth it.

    1. I have not read it but having just read the Wikipedia entry, I will be watching it very soon. That sounds exactly like something I will like.


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