On paper, Sara Gruen’s novel, At The Water’s Edge holds a lot of promise. The book is by the same, famous author who penned Water for Elephants and Ape House. Plus, the plot itself has an original premise, three socialites travel to Scotland to find the Loch Ness Monster during World War II. Unfortunately at its worst, the book can be as disappointing as an unsuccessful attempt to find ol’ Nessie.
The story begins with three smug and entitled rich kids disgracing themselves on New Year’s Eve in 1942. These actions result in the couple- the witless Ellis, the weak, Maddie along with their friend, Hank being cut off by the former’s father, the bank-rolling Colonel. The latter is disappointed in his son, not least because the young man cannot serve in the war because he is colour blind.
The trio hatch a plan, if they can survive U-boat attacks and make it to Scotland, they can attempt to do what the Colonel failed, to find the Loch Ness Monster. Along the way they encounter an interesting cast of Scottish characters who teach Maddie real humility and allow her to gain a greater appreciation for ordinary things and the harsher realities of war. It is through these lessons that she discovers that her marriage is a sham, her husband is a drunk and an addict and she gets the courage to become her own, independent woman.
Gruen’s writing is excellent, there is some very vivid imagery and descriptive prose. The characters could have been made a little more likeable or they could have had some extra weight added to them (at times this book feels like little more than three fish out of water). Some of the elements in the plot require a major suspension of disbelief while other parts are plodding and predictable.
At The Water’s Edge is pleasant and it knits together some different genres, like historic fiction, a gothic romance, a tale of redemption and at times even an adventure story. But there are points when things are a little too subtle and aimless which prevent things from really sticking, overall. There are some people who may like this dark and unusual tale that is set in a lush verdant environment, but one can’t help but think that there should’ve been a little something more here, but perhaps this was lost in the depths of a Scottish river.
***Please note: a free copy of this book was given to the writer through a The Reading Room giveaway. To read the original review on that website please visit: https://www.thereadingroom.com/book/at-the-water-s-edge/9176280/