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Leeway Cottage by Beth Richardson Gutcheon
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Leeway Cottage

by Beth Richardson Gutcheon

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A Victorian summer house – Leeway Cottage – is the one constant in the life of Annabee Sydney Brant Moss. Covering the time period from 1924 to 1993, this book explores the relationship between two people who are very different. Annabee grows up the privileged only child of a father who dotes on her and a mother who seems to resent her. They live in Ohio but have a summer home on the coast of Maine. Laurus is a Dane, a musician who left Europe for New York, but who has a strong sense of responsibility towards his family and his countrymen.

In general I like character-driven novels, and I really enjoyed this look at a marriage through the eyes of two very different people. Sydney had my full sympathies when she was still a child called Annabee. But as she matured I liked her less and less. It was interesting to see the great influence her mother had on her despite her efforts to distance herself from Candace. Laurus was more of an enigma. A musician and a patriot, he chafed under the restraints imposed by the war, but still felt a patriotic duty to serve. His facility with languages and deep knowledge of Europe made him valuable to the Allied forces, but his fame meant he had to remain at a distance. That forced restraint seems to have never left him, however.

I’m struggling with how to describe the book because I really don’t want to give an entire synopsis, and there is much that happens. The story covers several decades, after all, though much of the action is concentrated during the World War II era. I found the scenes dealing with Laurus’ family back in Denmark during the war particularly compelling, and I definitely wanted more of this story. But Gutcheon uses multiple points of view and moves back and forth in time as people remember past events, so I’m left feeling as if I’ve only scratched the surface.

I am reminded that there are many stories in the people around me; that what we see of a person – even one we think we know well - may be only the tip of the iceberg.
( )
  BookConcierge | Jan 13, 2016 |
The characters in this book were so believable, not especially loveable, but certainly believable. The story ranges from Sydney's childhood to her death and the road from being an emotionally scarred child to a an emotionally scarring mother and grandmother. Unfortunately, so often we become the very people we have despised earlier. The plot involving the Danish resistance during WWII was very interesting and one that I have not run across in any other historical fiction. The writing was readable, precise, and compelling.

The only reason I gave this a four star rather than five was the rushed feeling I got during approximately the last fourth of the book. It almost felt as we were fast-forwarding just to get to the end. And, although the chapter of Nina's horrific experiences in a German concentration camp helped explain her personality, it almost seemed a bit gratuitous, but it did provide a sharp contrast to the selfish and shallow yet sad Sydney.

I would recommend this to any lover of historical fiction especially during WWII and after. ( )
  maryreinert | Aug 17, 2013 |
i bought this on a discount table and did not expect much so i was very pleasantly surprised at this well written story.story moves between a coastal cottage are in Maine and NYC. it moves back in time to Nazi occupied Denmark and post war USA. the characters of Sydney and Laurus are well defined and reached out to me. I could understand them both. I was sorry that sydney degenerated into not such a nice person as i quite liked her character at the start. She was always interesting though as was her mother Cassandra. i really enjoyed this book ( )
  Smits | Oct 8, 2012 |
Based on the title, I expected a breezy family saga or summer story. This turned out to be a very interesting, and a little bit complicated, story about loyalty and motivations in several generations and across countries. The main character, Annabelle (eventually known as Sydney) is introduced as a child, and moves from sweet protagonist to troublesome matriarch against the backdrop of her youth and marriage to Danish Jew Laurus Moss. Love of country, spouse, children amidst the betrayal of WWII is intriguing. I learned a lot about Danish resistance and Scandanavian culture. ( )
  Lcwilson45 | Jul 25, 2011 |
Young Anna Brant adores her father and hates her mother. Unfortunately for her, her father dies when she is very young and she spends most of her youth rebeling aginst what she considers to be her mother's vulgarities. The only place she is truly at home is at their summer home in Dundee, Maine. There she has what she considers her true friends, and there, as she enters her teenage years, she discovers the world of music. As soon as she is 18, Anna collects her inheritance, changes her name to Sydney, and hurries off to music school to study singing. While there, she falls in love with a young Danish musician and they marry, They believe they are well matched; but when World War II separates them, their personalities seem to grow apart and their lives after the war take several dramatic turns sending them farther and farther away from each other.

In the end, depite her protestations, Sydney has become all too much like her mother and is making the same mistakes with her own children that her mother made with her.

This was a very good read and it would be a great book to discuss in a book group. I could see many friendly arguments about Anna/Sydney's motivations and feelings. ( )
  etxgardener | Feb 9, 2010 |
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For Frank Kelley, magister optimus
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The funeral is over.
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while i didn't love the book, knowing, 'sydney losing her marbles' was coming, i found the description of the danish resistance movement quite informative.
hard to love the main character; at first i felt so sorry that she had such an abusive mother, but when she turned into the same, my feelings for her were lost.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0060539062, Paperback)

In April 1940, as the Nazis march into Denmark, Sydney Brant, a wealthy girl of the Dundee summer colony, marries a gifted Danish pianist, Laurus Moss. They believe they are well matched, as young lovers do, but Laurus's beloved family is in Copenhagen, hostage to what the fortunes of Hitler's war will bring. By the time the war is over, Laurus's family has played an active role in Denmark's grassroots rescue of virtually all seven thousand of the country's Jews. Meanwhile, in America, Sydney has led a group knitting for the war effort, and had a baby.

Combining the story of one long American twentieth-century marriage with one of the most stirring stories of World War II, Leeway Cottage is a beautifully written tour de force of a novel.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:00:48 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

In a tale that spans a long-term twentieth-century marriage, wealthy Sydney Brant marries Danish pianist Laurus Moss on the eve of the Nazi invasion of Denmark and finds their marriage challenged by disparate views of the world.

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