Review by Ellen Blake
The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach by Pam Jenoff is this month’s pick of the month from Andrea Peskind-Katz from GREAT THOUGHTS, GREAT READERS.
What The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach Is About
In 1941, with WWII underway, young Jewish Adelia Monteforte’s mother put her on a boat leaving fascist Italy for America to keep her safe. Adelia arrived alone, scared, and angry that her mother forced her to leave quickly with few personal belongings. Once in the United States, her aunt and uncle, whom she had never met, whisked her away to start her new life, first to the Jersey Shore for the summer, then to their year-round residence in Philadelphia.
While grateful for the loving kindness of her well-meaning but somewhat distant aunt and uncle, Adelia feels out of place with both them and her new environment. She is self-conscious about her accent and olive skin. When she meets the Connally’s, life changes. The Irish Catholic Connally family was large, warm, and accepting, welcoming Adelia with open arms and affectionately nicknaming her “Addie”. She becomes very close to the four boys and their parents,
Adelia falls in love with Charlie, the eldest of the Connally boys, and eventually finds out the feelings are mutual. Unfortunately, hopes for a future together are dashed when the U.S. enters the war in Europe and Charlie secretly enlists, followed by tragedy at the Connally house that splinters the family. A grief-stricken Addie flees to Washington and then London, but she and Charlie continually find each other. They become star-crossed lovers as their story continues. Eventually, Addie finds her way back home to the U.S. via a path she never imagined.
My Review of The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach
The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach is a beautifully written story of love and forgiveness, filled with loss and learning about life. Jenoff’s exquisitely written and well-researched portrayal of life during World War II is heart-wrenching as it details the ways fate and circumstances shape who we are and ultimately become. The richly developed characters felt very real to me, and the descriptive prose gave me a true sense of what living through the devastation of war was like.
We follow the story of young Adelia as she leaves Italy and attempts to navigate life in the U.S. Though she feels abandoned and insecure, she possesses an inner strength that helps her make a life for herself. A very strong-willed character, she makes decisions independently, which often seem poorly thought-out and executed. However, we learn valuable lessons from her along the way about the importance of family and following your heart. We also learn from her story that while you can run away to another location, you can’t run away from yourself or your past.
Pam Jenoff is an incredible writer, and I’ve yet to read one of her books that I didn’t enjoy. The historical accuracy and wonderful writing style of her novels keep my interest throughout, and The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach was no exception. I couldn’t wait to find out what happened next. In addition, the surprise ending was completely unexpected.
I was provided a free advance reader copy from Park Row Books in exchange for my honest review. The opinions shared in this review are my own.
About the Author: Pam Jenoff
Pam Jenoff is the author of several books of historical fiction, including the NYT bestsellers CODE NAME SAPPHIRE, THE LOST GIRLS OF PARIS, THE ORPHAN’S TALE, THE DIPLOMAT’S WIFE, and THE WOMAN WITH THE BLUE STAR. Her novels are inspired by her experiences working as the Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Army at the Pentagon and as a diplomat for the State Department in Poland. These positions afforded Pam a unique opportunity to witness and participate in operations at the most senior levels of government and provided expertise regarding World War II and the Holocaust for Pam’s books.
Pam 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 degree from the University of Pennsylvania. She worked for several years as a labor and employment attorney both at a firm and in-house and she is presently on the faculty of Rutgers Law School.
Pam lives outside Philadelphia with her husband, three children, dog, cat, lizard, rabbit and bird. Learn more about Pam Jenoff.
Other Books by Pam Jenoff
About Andrea Peskind Katz from Great Thoughts, Great Readers:
Andrea Peskind Katz runs Great Thoughts, Great Readers, a Book Salon presented via her private FB group where approximately 5,000 prolific readers and authors interact. To quote Robert Frost, she created her “second act” career to “unite my avocation and my vocation”. After 20 years in high-pressure sales, Andrea retired to spend time doing what she loves best: hanging with her family and reading good books.