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.
In this sprawling family epic, Gutcheon (More Than You Know) chronicles how an unlikely marriage endures over the course of the 20th century. The novel is anchored in the idyllic, fictional summer colony of Dundee, Maine, which will always feel like home to Annabelle Sydney Brant, but turns on the story of the Danish resistance against the Nazis in WWII, a revolt Annabelle's Danish-born, half-Jewish husband, Laurus Moss, leaves the U.S. to join. Annabelle matures from the young, cosseted Annabee (coming-out parties in Cleveland, sailing in Maine) to the bohemian Sydney (voice lessons and a flat in New York City), clashing with her chilly, socialite mother, Candace, along the way. In New York, she meets Laurus, a pianist, and as they court, Hitler marches on Europe. When the Nazis invade Denmark in 1940, Laurus cannot rest idly with his homeland and family endangered, so joins the London-based Danish Resistance. During their separation, Sydney gives birth to the first of three children and Laurus's family escapes from Denmark to Sweden. The war and time apart change but don't estrange Laurus and Sydney, whose lasting union despite glaring differences puzzles observers: "Sydney and Laurus Moss were like a tiger and a zebra married to each other. What were those two doing together?" Charting a marriage against the backdrop of a tumultuous century, Gutcheon writes evocatively of love and war.