Friday, June 17, 2016

Bookish Banter: The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach by Pam Jenoff

I hate book clubs. I've tried quite a few, but I've yet to find one I really fit into and I find that incredibly frustrating as someone who loves talking about books. It's not something I generally think about, but after stumbling over another list of pre-written discussion questions, I found myself wondering why I shouldn't work through them on my own. I'm a book blogger aren't I?Putting my ideas out there is what I do!

For the record, Bookish Banter is not a regular post here at Flashlight Commentary. Not every book has questions and I don't have the time to sort titles that do to the top of my TBR, but as a semi-regular event I thought it'd be fun to post my two cents when the opportunity presents itself. 

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  Try to conceal your shock, but this post contains SPOILERS. Proceed at your own risk.

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The sense of place plays a very important role in The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach. Which setting did you find the most evocative?
This sounds horrible, but the setting didn’t make an impression on me while reading The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach. I was keenly aware of Addie’s longing to find a place to belong emotionally, but her environment didn’t stand out in my mind while reading this narrative. 

Siblings often fall into distinct roles within a family. Did the relationships between the Connolly brothers remind you of your own siblings, or families you’ve known?
I wasn’t raised with siblings, but I did recognize the roles each boy played in the Connolly household and I definitely appreciated the authenticity in the Jenoff’s illustration. Having watched larger families, I felt the concept both familiar and relevant.

Addie’s choices altered her life very drastically. Have you ever lamented a path that you might have taken but didn’t?
I think regret is a common sentiment among adults and while I can certainly empathize, I have to admit that my choices, good and bad, have led to things I couldn’t have been more blessed to have in my life so while I sometimes ask myself ‘what if’ I rarely dwell on the idea or let it overwhelm my emotions in any way.

It seems at some points in the book that Charlie and Addie are fated to be together, but at others they seem star-crossed. Do you believe in destiny and meant-to-be, or is love a matter of free will?
I’m definitely in the free will category. People grow and change and circumstances often dictate our decisions. I think some people are better suited to one another, but I don’t believe there is one perfect mate for any one individual. 

Addie was rather an independent woman without many close female friendships. Why do you think that is? What was it that drew her and Claire Churchill together?
Independent? I hate to be contrary, but I didn’t get an independent vibe from Addie. In my mind Addie was frightened and hurt. She seemed the kind of woman that was always running from situations when life got complicated. Claire is the exact opposite and I think there is truth in the idea that opposites attract. 

Did any details in the story differ from your perception of life on the home front during the Second World War? What surprised you?
Nothing really surprised me, but that’s not unusual considering WWII is my favorite historic era. That said, I really liked how Jenoff captured America’s view of Europe’s conflict prior to the country’s official entry into WWII. 

What do you think it was that Addie really wanted out of life, and did she succeed in getting it? What did she have to sacrifice or compromise?
I think Addie wanted to belong and yes, I think she found a place in the end. I don’t think it brought the satisfaction she imagined, but I think she felt secure in her decision despite compromising the fantasies she’d created in her mind’s eye. 

Which of the men in the book would you have chosen for Addie (or none of them)? What is it about Addie’s upbringing and circumstances that influenced her romantic decisions?
None of them. I think each represented something different for Addie, but I don’t think any one of them made a great partner. In the end I felt she settled for someone who could understand the pain of her personal history, but I’m not convinced the relationship she chose would be particularly satisfying.

How do you feel about who Addie ends up with at the end of the book? How do you think Addie and Liam fare after the end of the book?
I think I answered this a bit in the last question. I am kind of sad that Addie didn’t go for someone who challenged her more. Liam felt like the safest option and while I feel they’d have gotten on, I feel their life together would always be shadowed by their past experiences, Charlie’s affection, and their individual insecurities.  

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Have you read this book? Do you agree? Do you disagree? Do you have an opinion you'd like to share? Please leave a comment below. I'd love to hear from you!

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