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The Summer Before The Storm by Gabriele…
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The Summer Before The Storm (edition 2006)

by Gabriele Wills

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Member:whitreidtan
Title:The Summer Before The Storm
Authors:Gabriele Wills
Info:Mindshadows (2006), Edition: First, Paperback, 548 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***1/2
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The Summer Before the Storm by Gabriele Wills

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Gabriele Wills takes a reader back in time in her book The Summer Before the Storm. It is more than just a story of a time period. It is more than a story about a family. It is the story of passion, survival, and determination.

When I started this book, I was expecting something lighter and obviously written in just a couple of months. I immediately realized that this was a book that could not just be read in one night or even a couple of days. This was an epic story that would take me much longer to enjoy and fully get the impact.

Ms. Wills is one of the most talented writers I have read in a long time. She paints the world for the reader where you could easily just step into the picture and actually feel the air from the lake on your face and hear the noises of the elegant gatherings around you. She has written more than a story. She has written a world to get lost in.

Her characters are full of color and depth. They are real. They are vibrant. Their feelings become the reader's. Her writing talent is exceptional as she weaves a plot that cannot simple be described in a book summary or a review. It is woven in a complex yet enjoyable pattern.

This is truly a book you have to read. If you like a book set back in time with characters that will stay with you long after you've closed the book and loaned it to a friend.

Note: This book was provided as part of a book tour with no expectation of a positive review. ( )
1 vote RebeccaGraf | Nov 28, 2012 |
When I first came across The Summer Before the Storm it was said that if you like Downton Abbey you should try this book. I'm a huge fan of the show so I thought I would give this book a go. This novel is set in a group of islands in Canada. I've only been to Canada once and it was beautiful. So I could easily imagine the scenery that the author writes about. The main focus of this book is the Wyndham family. At the head of the family is the grandmother. She is not only the matriarch but also rules everything with a tight fist. There are dozens of characters in this book. If that frightens you then be assured, the author has provided a cast of characters at the beginning of the novel.
The Summer Before the Storm takes place in 1914. Times are about to change in a drastic way, but before they do we get to spend some get-to-know-you time with the family. This is definitely a character driven novel. For the most part, it centers around Victoria and Jack. Victoria has grown up in luxury. She's spunky with a whole lot of gumption. Jack's father was disowned by the Wyndham family. He grew up poor and after his father died, he decided to reconnect with his Wyndham relations. The family welcomes him. However, the author drops a few red herrings that things might not be what they seem. I like both Jack and Victoria. Victoria has quite a bit of growing up to do in this book. And Jack, though he knows what he wants, might not do what ever it takes to get it.
The family in itself is dynamic and complex like any huge family. The author portrays the family life in a realistic way. I enjoyed reading this book. Although at times I felt like this book was longer than it should be, when I got to the end I still wanted to read more. I do want to continue with this series. I'm hooked now, and I want to find out what happens to Victoria and Jack. This book takes you back to a sweet period in time then leads you into a war ravaged country. This book is very engaging and I'd recommend it. The Summer Before the Storm is the first book in The Muskoka Trilogy. The next book in this series is Elusive Dawn followed by Under the Moon. ( )
  mt256 | Nov 11, 2012 |
When I saw the gorgeous boat on the cover of this book and found out that it was mostly set amongst summer cottages on a lake, I knew that it was a book that I had to read. Several generations of my family spend the summer together at a remote lake cottage on an island and although our area is not quite like Muskoka, I could vividly picture the life they led, the dramas that played out, and the feeling of belonging that the area and cottage inspired. Set during the Age of Elegance in Canada in the easy lull just before the world erupted into the horrible and deadly World War I, Gabriele Wills' The Summer Before the Storm is an engrossing look at lives of privilege and entitlement and the ways in which their world is already changing irreparably.


Focused primarily on the extended Wyndham family, the novel opens with a handsome and audacious waiter bending down and whispering something into the ear of the proper and wholey class conscious matriarch of the very wealthy family, something that makes grandmother Augusta Wyndham blanch. The waiter, it seems, is a Wyndham, the eldest child of the disowned but still much mourned and beloved youngest son Alex. With Jack's bold introduction to the family, tensions between the Wyndhams will tighten and strain. His advent foreshadows the coming conflict acoss the ocean and marks the start of the last "normal" summer at the cottage and Muskoka. Although Augusta is willing to accept the advent of this son of her rogue son, she is a canny and observant woman and she keeps a close eye on the goings on around her. Jack is a schemer and having spent his entire life thus far in poverty, he is determined to not only get into his fabulously wealthy family's good graces but to stay in their monied bosom forever more. And to that end, he chooses his cousin Victoria, a young woman testing the boundaries of propriety and taste, a new breed of freer woman, and clearly the apple of her grandmother's eye despite her outspokeness and forward thinking, modern choices.

The summer passes slowly and lazily as the Wyndhams and their social set, including those not entirely acceptable to them except in the more relaxed atmosphere of Muskoka, embark on their usual summer amusements: a regatta, a swimming contest, tennis matches, canoeing, parties, swimming, and endless visiting amongst the myriad of privately owned islands in the lake. New adult relationships are formed, unwelcome news is uncovered and brushed firmly back under the rug; the Wyndham grandchildren are growing older and becoming adults; the long-standing tensions between the remaining Wyndham sons and their wives escalates with sharp words and frequent spats. New neighbors are met and folded into the social fabric of the lake society. And the myriad of servants face their own belowstairs dramas. In short, aside from the advent of Jack's coming, which has supercharged the atmosphere, the summer of 1914 is little different from previous summers until the July announcement of war, when reality intrudes on this shangri-la.

The book is sweeping and epic in scale and feel with a marvelous grandeur of times past. It is hard to get into in the beginning because the cast of characters is altogether overwhelming. There are a full four and a half pages for the character list before the novel even begins and although many of them don't enter the book until later, it is a challenge to keep the early characters straight until they are well and fully introduced. But once the story focuses on fewer members of the family, really those whose lives will carry the story (and ostensibly the further two books in the trilogy), the confusion settles down and the reader can settle into an engrossing and addictive read.

The languor and indolence of the monied class and their complete insularity is brilliantly captured here as is the strict insistence on maintaining the illusion of elitism. The young generation is striving to break the tighter propriety bonds that stifle them and there is certainly a rising awareness of social inequity and a desire to make the world a better place. As the war blows into the lives of this community, everything shifts and changes with the young men joining up and leaving for England and the young women left at home, at least initially, to carry on in a world changed forever. The historical detail here is marvelous and complete. The beginning of the book is slow and fluid feeling but the end pelts along at an increased clip and time feels compressed as indeed it must have with the war raging. The ending felt more like a cliffhanger before book two than a completion but that's a minor quibble and I look forward to revisiting the altered lives of the Wyndhams, Victoria in particular. Historical fiction readers will sink into this tale, happily immersed in the end of an era that is marching relentlessly into a terrible and costly war. ( )
  whitreidtan | Nov 6, 2012 |
This book takes you to a world not seen by many people - a world of "cottages" on private islands and personal steamboats. It takes place in what can only be a glorious area of Canada just before the onset of WWI. We meet the very wealthy Wyndham family just as they meet a long lost relative. The book is populated with well defined characters of all stripes from the ahead of her time Victoria to the entitled sons of the family who don't want this interloping new nephew Jack coming forth to claim any of the money they think is all theirs.

The Muskoka area is full of people both rich and not so rich and Ms. Wills can draw a reader in and make that reader feel as if she were in that brand new speedboat on the lake feeling the warmth of the day and the spray of the water. I love a book that causes you to just totally get lost in the story and this is that book. I would have read it in a couple of sessions if not for Hurricane Sandy and worry about my family. I just couldn't concentrate and I didn't want to lose any of this great story. (My family is in New Jersey - they are all OK.)

The book takes us through the beginnings of the war and training of certain characters in the RAF. The tales of the fighter pilots are harrowing and war is, as always hell. The Lusitania and her sinking play a very large role and that horrific attack is hard to read. The ending is a touch histrionic but it sets up the next book in what is going to be a trilogy. I will be looking forward to it most ardently and will keep this book on my shelf to re-read in advance of its arrival. Yes, this one is a keeper and you know how few I keep to re-read.
  BrokenTeepee | Nov 2, 2012 |
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Muskoka, 1914. It is the Age of Elegance in the summer playground of the affluent and powerful. Amid the pristine, island-dotted lakes, the granite cliffs, and pine-scented forests of the Canadian wilderness, the young and carefree amuse themselves with glittering balls, lavish picnics, and friendly competitions. But their charmed lives begin to unravel with the onset of the Great War, in which many are destined to become part of the lost generation . This richly textured tale takes the reader on an unforgettable journey from romantic moonlight cruises to the horrific sinking of the Lusitania, genteel Muskoka to wartime Britain, regattas on the water to combat in the skies over France, extravagant mansions to deadly trenches: from innocence to nationhood.
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