Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Review: "The Summer Before The Storm" by Gabriele Wills

It is 1914, and the priviledged Wyndham family is spending the summer at their cottage, Wyndwood, in Muskoka. Little do they know that this could be the last summer that they spend in idyllic bliss. Early on in the summer, a previously unknown cousin introduces himself to the family. Jack's father was disowned from the Wyndham's when he followed his heart and married an actress that his mother, the formidable Augusta Wyndham, did not approve of. Now that Jack's father has passed away, Jack makes himself known and is determined to become a part of the Wyndham legacy, one way or the other.

Spunky and headstrong Victoria Wyndham, Augusta's granddaughter, is spending the summer on the island as well. In between the festivals and the parties, she will find the time to assert her independance and fall in love with one of the Islanders- but which one will it be?

Everything changes with the onset of the Great War. Suddenly the Wyndham's friends, family, and acquaintances are going off to war and finding ways to get involved in the war effort from home, and they find that their lives are changed forever. Victoria finds herself on a journey across the sea to be with her future husband, but will tragedy find her there?

The Summer Before the Storm is a richly detailed, complex novel- one that will stay with you long after you've turned the last page. The details have been painstakingly researched, and when Gabriele Wills described a scene or a home, I felt as if I was actually right there along the characters. There are a multitude of colourful characters who appear in this book, and although it may take a little before you can recognize all of them, there is a really helpful "cast of characters" section in the beginning of the book that you can use until they are all familiar. Wills also has the talent of turning characters that I thought I would dislike into characters that I both liked and admired by the end of the book. She makes her characters multi-layered, revealing only small parts of their personality at a time.

This is a large book, which took me almost a week to read (this from the woman who reads a book in a day or two!), but you'll be glad that you picked it up. The Summer Before the Storm offers a realistic reflection on the war from a uniquely Canadian perspective, and incorporates romance, betrayal, family dynamics, and loyalty within its pages. As soon as I was finished I was tempted to pick up the sequel, Elusive Dawn, and start reading it right away, but I restrained myself and am saving it for another day. Elusive Dawn picks up where The Summer Before the Storm left off, and tells more of the Wyndham story, as well as offers additional information on the Canadian involvement in the Great War.

Thank-you to the author for sending me this review copy! You can browse inside this novel here, or watch the trailer for the Muskoka novels here.

Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Recommended to: Historical Fiction lovers, anyone interested in Canadian literature
Challenges: 2010 100+ Reading Challenge, New Author Challenge 2010


  1. I'm delighted that you enjoyed the book, Jonita, and am most grateful for your review!

    Gabriele Wills

  2. Sounds like an interesting read. Reminded me of a friend who used to have a cottage on Lake Muskoka. He would point out families that had been cottaging their for generations. Produced some intriguing conversations

  3. I'm Canadian, so would be quite interested in the book. Great review!

  4. Thanks for sending the link to your review of this book. I'm glad that we both enjoyed it so much.