The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach

Written by Pam Jenoff
Review by Amy Watkin

Adelia Monteforte was a teenager in 1941 when her mother and father sent her from their home in Italy to stay with an uncle in America. Scared and confused, Addie only begins to enjoy her new home after meeting the Connally family, a rambunctious group of four brothers and their parents, who fold Addie into their family and give her a new understanding of home. Addie’s relationship with the Connallys dictates her choices over the course of the war, taking her back to Europe, where she meets Claire Churchill, niece of Winston Churchill, and finds more new friends and complications.

The story is compelling and Jenoff evokes the time period with well-placed details. I wanted to like Addie more than I did, though. I found it frustrating to watch her make silly decisions for no evident reason, so perhaps giving her more of a life outside of the Connally connection would have been helpful in understanding her motivations. Or even if I did not understand Addie’s choices, I would have liked to have seen more evidence that she understood them, either before or after they occurred.

Some of the shifts back and forth through time were difficult to follow, but for the most part the book is structured well. Claire Churchill is a fascinating fictional character who deserves a book of her own so that we can follow her adventures more closely.

Overall, the book is worth reading, though I did not fall in love with it as I did with one of Jenoff’s previous works, The Kommandant’s Girl.