- Paperback: 384 pages
- Publisher: Mira (July 28, 2015)
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.
Buy, read, and discuss The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach
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.
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I started reading this book late on a Saturday evening, and had weird dreams that night because I stopped at a particularly poignant scene. I spent the following Sunday immersed in the book, barely coming out of it to eat or give attention to my dogs.
First, I was hooked because I was practically born at the Jersey Shore, where the summer parts of this novel take place, and second, I was hooked because Adelia – Addie – is an Italian Jew, which isn’t something you see a lot in literature. We tend to think of all Jewish refugees as coming from Germany, Russia, and Poland, and forget that Hitler’s regime affected all of Europe.
History aside, I was soon drawn into Addie’s story, and her blend of intelligence and innocence. I really liked the way she began as a naif and ended up a strong woman, largely by her own making, but with the support of others, and while this was absolutely a period piece, and her choices were very much dictated by the constraints of the day, I feel this story would translate equally well to a contemporary setting because it tackles universal themes: growing up, coming of age, the endless battle between head and heart, and the choices we all must make between career and family.
I wasn’t ever in love with the character of Charlie – he seemed just a little weak to me at times, but dark and broody Liam intrigued me from the first. I love the way this boisterous Irish-American family of mostly boys took this Italian-American girl into their hearts, and made her, at times, a friend, a sister, a confidante, etc.
Overall, I found that the language the author used lent the book a lyrical quality reminiscent of my own childhood summers at the shore, where memories are veiled in gauze and you never get too close a look at them. I thought the story was well plotted, with some frustrating plot twists that paid off in the end, and well paced. Some of the descriptions were so cinematic that, at times, I felt like I was reading a Hallmark Channel movie (or maybe Merchant Ivory, but more likely the former). Someone buy the rights to this novel and film it, please?
If you want a summer read that has just enough meat to keep you satisfied, but isn’t so heavy you feel like drowning yourself, The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach would be a perfect fit.
Goes well with ham and cheese sandwiches (even though they’re not kosher) wrapped in waxed paper, deviled eggs, and slices of watermelon.
One reader (must live in US or Canada) will win a copy of the book The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach, and a limited edition beach bag (no beach required). To enter: Comment on this post telling me about a summer romance you had. Generic comments will be discarded. Alternative entry: Find my tweet about this book review in my feed (@melysse) and retweet it, making sure to let me know.
Entries close at 11:59 PM US Central time on Tuesday, August 11th. Winner will be notified by email (or twitter) before being announced on this blog. Winner’s name and mailing address will be forwarded to the publicist for this author for fulfillment.
One entry and one tweet per person will be counted.
Monday, July 27th: Peeking Between the Pages
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 or guest post
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