Review: The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach by Pam Jenoff
August 27, 2015
Last Summer at Chelsea Beach by Pam Jenoff
Genre: Historical Fiction
Date: July 28, 2015
Adelia Montforte didn’t want to leave Italy, but with war breaking out and the Jewish people growing ever more afraid for their lives, her parents forced her onto a boat with no luggage, no money, and little hope of ever seeing them again. For anyone this would be terrifying but for a teenager struggling to figure out who she is, it was devastating.
In America, her life is anything but settled. She barely knows the relatives she’s living with and she understands that taking her in wasn’t something they were necessarily happy about doing. But when they go to the shore for the summer, she’s certain her life is going to be absolutely miserable. And then she meets the Connally family and everything shifts. They shouldn’t get along; a Catholic family full of boys and this Jewish girl from another country. But they do. And it fills a hole in Addie’s heart. But war is looming on the horizon and all is not idyllic or peaceful. Addie learns that tragedy can come no matter where you live.
This book embraced me. Yes, I know how that sounds, but that’s the best way to describe it. I didn’t just get pulled into the story. I was surrounded by every part of it and I didn’t want to come up for air.
Overflowing with beautiful scenery and vivid descriptions, Jenoff’s characters brought history into bright, living, focus. Sometimes the historical aspect can bog down a book and you end up feeling like you’re lost in a textbook of facts and figures. Like real life, The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach keeps the people center stage. Jenoff deftly pulls history into the story only long enough for us to anchor where and when it is in time, but then she allows the lives of her characters to take center stage. This made the story richer and fuller while making you feel that these characters must really exist. While reading, I found myself wishing I could know the Connallys and be a part of their family. The Jersey Shore came to life with sounds and smells that you can normally only get from being there.
Pam Jenoff has crafted a story that does far more than just allow you to escape into fiction for a while. It will touch your heart and leave you wanting more. This book is a summer read that belongs in every beach bag at the shore. Don’t miss it!