After reading Water for Elephants which was so beautifully written and had wonderfully crafted characters, I thought I would like anything that Sara Gruen wrote, but I really struggled to read At the Water’s Edge. The writing was just fine, but the characters were detestable. . I hated Ellis. He was shallow, insecure, and rude as well as being a useless drunk and drug addict. I couldn’t fathom what had ever attracted Maddie to him in the first place. Hank wasn’t much better, and I had a lot of trouble respecting Maddie because so much of the situation she was in was her own fault. Really, the story is about Maddie finally growing up. You can be married and the wife of a “well-bred” man and still be as naïve as a baby.
I liked the Scottish characters very much and even grew to like Maddie eventually, though I wish she’d had more of a backbone when it came to dealing with her husband. The story is well written even if one of the major “twists” is quite obvious almost from the get-go. The best aspect of the book is that it takes place in a tiny town in Scotland with World War II having as much presence as any of the characters. In the end, it’s a decent read though if I was limited to one Gruen book, I’d choose Elephants over this one.