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Leeway Cottage

Leeway Cottage

3.6 18
by Beth Gutcheon

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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


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.

Editorial Reviews

Los Angeles Times
“Stirring…The World War II saga anchors the novel, giving it resonance beyond the family dramas Gutcheon tells so well.”
“A gentle, even tender book. Every reader will be wiser for it.”
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“A rich saga of an American family told with moving clarity.”
“Gutcheon’s tale is more than just a story of a marriage; it’s a metaphor for an era.”
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“A great drama, cinematically told…[Gutcheon] writes elegantly about the complex bonds of family.”
Pages Magazine
“A remarkably rich and emotionally jarring novel filled ultimately with hope.”
Boston Globe
“[E]nthralling . . . triumphant and true.”
Times Leader
“A compelling and deeply felt reading experience.”
New York Newsday
“Pure storytelling…[Gutcheon’s] characters and settings are alive, sparkling with deft touches of period detail…riveting…vibrant.”
New York Times Book Review
“Absorbing…Daring…Gutcheon has strong narrative skills.”
Time Magazines Leader
"A compelling and deeply felt reading experience."
This ambitious novel by the author of More than You Know traces the complicated relationship of affluent American Sydney Brant and her expatriate husband, Danish pianist Laurus Moss. Beth Gutcheon's narrative follows Sydney from her difficult childhood through her courtship and marriage. Not long after she becomes pregnant, Laurus leaves her, returning to Europe to help save Denmark's Jews. After the war, Laurus returns to America; the marriage is resilient but forever changed. This is a compelling, multilayered novel.
Liesl Schillinger
It's daring when a writer undertakes a story with intentionally unlikable main characters; Anthony Trollope was one of the very few to pull it off, in The Eustace Diamonds. Fortunately, Gutcheon has strong narrative skills, so while Leeway Cottage' doesn't approach the breathless, involving hurtle of Trollope, it's absorbing, mostly because of the subplot about the Danes' remarkable efforts to save the country's Jews (almost all of whom survived the war, despite the German occupation).
— The New York Times
Library Journal
In Gutcheon's latest (after More Than You Know), Annabelle Sydney Brant grows up adored by her father and largely criticized by her mother. The best times of her life are spent in the family summer home, Leeway Cottage, in Dundee, ME. After her father's death, a miserable Sydney moves to New York City to study music in an act of rebellion against her mother's superficial lifestyle. There, she falls in love with Laurus Moss, a Danish pianist whom she eventually marries. When World War II breaks out, Laurus moves to London to help build the Danish Resistance and save Denmark's Jews from Nazi extermination. Meanwhile, Sydney gives birth to a daughter who, sadly, will not meet her father until the war is over. Though Sydney turns into a woman not unlike the mother she despises, her marriage endures. Gutcheon tells brave stories of the Danish people, including grim scenes set in concentration camps. A curious combination of a World War II historical/ summer house novel, this is a good old-fashioned, all-encompassing read, with tears and smiles guaranteed. Recommended for all public libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 1/05.]-Keddy Ann Outlaw, Harris Cty. P.L., Houston Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The wounds inflicted by bad parenting, the complexities of a flawed but enduring marriage, and Denmark's resistance to the Nazis: three compelling themes awkwardly yoked together in this ambitious latest from Gutcheon (More Than You Know, 2000, etc.). The author's gift for plunging readers directly into her story is evident on the first page, as three siblings sort through the belongings of their parents, who have died together in the family's summer home. Gutcheon then moves back to trace the history of Leeway Cottage in Maine and the miserable childhood of Sydney Brant, anxious daughter of cold, disapproving Candace. In 1938, Sydney falls in love with expatriate Danish pianist Laurus Moss, drawn to his warmth and delighted to shock her snobbish mother by marrying the grandson of a baker. The newlyweds spend a happy summer at Leeway in 1941, but when Laurus leaves a pregnant Sydney that fall to aid the European war effort, the narrative takes a sharp, startling turn. Sydney drops out almost completely for a hundred pages devoted to Laurus's family, particularly his sister Nina, one of the many Danes who risk their lives and save nearly all of the nation's Jews. By the time Nina is liberated from Ravensbruck concentration camp and Laurus returns to America, the grim Danish section has laid the groundwork for an entirely different perspective on Sydney. The unloved girl who seemed so appealing is revealed as a damaged, angry and selfish woman, though Gutcheon deftly drops in a few admirable acts to remind us no one is entirely good or all bad. Laurus remains steadfastly loyal, to the bewilderment of their three children as the narrative moves with increasing speed and selectiveness throughthe subsequent half-century. A harrowing account of Nina's ordeal at Ravensbruck makes an odd precursor to the final chapter at Leeway. Yet Gutcheon's insights are so keen, her sympathy for all her characters so contagious, that the story's imperfect structure can almost be forgiven. There's more going on here than the narrative can comfortably contain, but Gutcheon gets an A for effort and a solid B for achievement.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
P.S. Series
Edition description:
P.S. Insights, Interviews and More
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.00(d)

Read an Excerpt

The funeral is over. The ashes, in matching urns, are on the mantelpiece. There is no way to know whose last will or testament is in force, so they have decided to close the house as always, and leave it for the winter. Next summer, when the flood tides of memories and mourning currently swamping them have receded, they will be better able to cope. They have decided that each of them will take home one thing from Leeway for the winter, for comfort. They are going through the house somberly, saying their goodbyes in their different ways, each looking for one object that will keep the dead alive and close a little longer.

In the back of a closet in the upstairs hall, Eleanor opens an ancient garment bag and finds a shapeless and tarnished handful of ribbons and tulle. She gives a shriek.

Monica and Jimmy emerge from back bedrooms. "What is that?"

"It's The Dress!"

"She kept it all these years?"

The three of them stare at it, the debutante dress of legend. It is more of a rag than the couture dream they had imagined. Eleanor puts it back on the hanger and zips it back up in its bag, where it will wait, ready to be called as evidence in a yet-to-be-settled case of outrage in which all the principal parties are now dead.

Although none of them has said so, what each of them most wants to take home is the houseguest book.

Monica finds it.

"I've decided," she calls from the dining room.

Eleanor comes in from the big living room where she has been scanning the bookshelves, and sees her sister holding the very thing she was looking for.

"Finders keepers," says Monica.

"Where was it?"

Jimmy is coming down the stairs.

"In there," says Monica, pointing to an antique tavern table their parents used as a sideboard. "In the drawer."

Jimmy walks in holding a framed picture of their father and mother sitting in the stern of The Rolling Stone. They are at anchor in some island cove, Burnt Coat, or Pretty Marsh. The sunset flares gold on the water behind them, and they are tanned and happy, holding cocktails and wearing sunglasses and smiles. Jimmy has been about to announce this as his choice when he sees the guest book in Monica's hand.

"I was looking for that!" he says.

"It turns out we all were," says Eleanor.

"Where was it?"

The sisters point to the tavern table.

"I say 'finders keepers,' " says Monica.

"Unless one of us owns the table." Their mother has employed her sunset years in wandering around the house promising things to people, often the same thing two or three times, and applying stickers delivering her orders from beyond the grave.

Eleanor kneels down to peer under the table. She pulls her head out and reaches for the glasses on a cord around her neck. She pokes her head under again and reads, " 'Property of James Brant Moss.' " She stands up and looks at her sister, and they both say, "Oh, surprise."

Meet the Author

Beth Gutcheon is the critically acclaimed author of eight previous novels: The New Girls, Still Missing, Domestic Pleasures, Saying Grace, Five Fortunes, More Than You Know, Leeway Cottage, and Good-bye and Amen. She is the writer of several film scripts, including the Academy-Award nominee The Children of Theatre Street. She lives in New York City.

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Leeway Cottage 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 18 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a book I recommend without hesitation to fellow book lovers. It explores the complexities of human relationships and brings in history in an interesting way. It's a good story, but not one for readers looking to find only lovable, one-dimensional characters. The author's characters will evoke many emotions in the reader, some negative. It's not challenging to read, but provokes thoughtful review of one's own relationships and how better to deal with them.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really loved the first...half of this book because it really went into depth with Sydney as the main character and Laurus and Candace as secondary main characters. The second half of the book veered away from that somewhat to the point that it only brushed over their lives instead of going into depth. Once the war was over it was almost pointless because it didn't focus enough on any one character to feel "connected" with them. I wouldn't say I was completely disappointed in the ending but I wasn't happy about it either because it was too predictable. I doubt I'll pass this one on to my "book sharing" friends or seek out any other by this author.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The best thing about this book is that I picked it up at a library sale for only two bucks. Other than that, it was a disappointment. Sometimes unlikeable characters are actually quite interesting, but that wasn't the case with these characters. If they weren't unsympathetic, then they were just plain dull. I didn't care about poor little rich girl Sydney, especially after she married Laurus just to annoy her mother. Once Sydney begins to emulate her mother, the novel becomes even more unbearable. I felt very removed from them and from their story. I just wanted it to end. In fact, I started skimming quite a bit. It seemed like the author took on a very large task--portraying the marriage of an pianist and his rich American wife as well as the Danish Resistance during WWII. These parts didn't mesh well. The shifts between Maine and Denmark were too huge, and the sudden inclusion of Nina's story before the last chapter just seemed out of place. I think the author would have done better if she'd written two separate novels. It was too much portrayed much too quickly for one book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Reading Gutcheon's book is a two for the money: the saga of an American family and the Nazi occupation of the Danes. It is a bit more involved than your typical beach read, and I liked the book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I love this book. Years ago I loved another of Beth Gutcheon's books, 'Still Missing', but never completed her other books since then. This book has everything I love in a good novel, believable characters, intelligent writing, a compelling plot... I really don't want to finish the book. It's one I'll recommend to all my reading friends.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Few subjects are as dramatic as love and war. Beth Gutcheon, author of More than You Know, weaves them both in this enthralling story of a marriage set in the plush haven of Dundee, Maine, and against the horrific backdrop of World War II. Broadway and television actress Elizabeth Marvel gives a superb reading, especially when she inhabits the voice of Sydney Brant, a wealthy young woman who spent her days sailing the coast and her evenings at deb parties until she met the man to whom she would make a lifelong commitment. Upon the death of her father Sydney is left to grieve with a mother who is much more interested in social status and control. So, the young woman, who harbors hopes of becoming a singer, moves to New York City where she meets and marries Laurus Moss, a Danish pianist. With the outbreak of the War, Laurus feels compelled to go to London and become a part of a Danish Resistance group while Sydney remains behind. It is then, in 1941, that the first of their three children is born. Laurus's activities are a blueprint of what many endured in order to save more than 7,000 Jews, yet this danger is far removed from Sydney whose task is now mothering. One might imagine that the pair would not have much in common or would be disinterested once they're reunited. That's not the case at all as is revealed in this evocative story of marriage amidst war and separation. - Gail Cooke
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This is one of my top ten favorite reads. Read it one summer and hated when it was over. Re-read Leeway Cottage after the sequel came out, and realized a few nuances I missed the first read. Love it, love it, love it.
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Good reading.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
The synposis of the book makes it sound so interesting. The book has no center--it is all over the place and I am still not sure what the point is. The author had too many different characters in her novel and I found it difficult to keep track of them all because they didn't really stand out. The Resistance parts don't flow with the book, I am not sure what the author was hoping to accomplish by having this in the book. The title of the book is called Leeway Cottege, yet I am not sure why. Parts of this book were boring and I was happy to finish it. The author did put some great historical facts in the book.