The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach by Pam Jenoff
Jenoff’s latest work of historical fiction is her first set predominately in the United States. Adelia Montforte is a young Jewish Italian girl whom is forced by her mother to board one of the last ships leaving for the United States. Upon arrival, Adelia is immediately thrust into her new life with her aunt and uncle and they leave for a summer at the shore. While there, Adelia meets the Irish-Catholic Connally family and she becomes close to the four boys, Charlie, Jack, Liam, and Robbie whom rechristened her Addie. All help her adjust to her new life and she grows to adore Charlie. However, idealism is short-lived as the war follows Addie; Pearl Harbor occurs mere months later. This sets of a chain of events that will change the life of all, culminating in a terrible tragedy that hits much closer to home than the war ever will.
Following that, Addie needed to distance herself from grief. She flees to war-torn London where she works for a prestigious newspaper. She makes new friends whom each provide advice, reencounters old friends, and in their own way each helps Addie find herself. Readers will also gain a sense of the harsh life of living in wartime London, from air raids to blackout conditions to the plight of the orphans. By the novel’s end, there will be an outcome barely foreshadowed at that may shock readers.
Written from Addie’s perspective, The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach is an emotional rollercoaster. Her happiness shines through when needed and when her heart is broken, readers will feel like theirs is also. Sadly, the latter is more common but each case is a situation that only makes Addie stronger in the end. Addie also learns how youthful optimism can give way to a harsh reality in a painful example of being thrust into adulthood. In its essence, this novel is a story of self-discovery during one of the most complicated times in history.
The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach released during the last week of July, 2015. I won the copy I reviewed in a Goodreads First Reads Giveaway.
Do you think you will read this novel? Do you think you could twice leave you family behind? Especially since on one occasion you did not know if you would see them again?