Some weeks ago Gabriele agreed to provide me with a few copies of this book in order to organize a joint reading in my Spanish blog, which made extremely happy but also worried because the book is quite long to read in a foreign language and I really didn’t know if I would like it, although the plot seemed interesting. So I was really afraid of reading a long book that I’m not enjoying, in English! But fortunately, this story has captivated me.
In the first part of the book we meet the main characters. It’s 1914 and the Wyndhams are spending their summertime in their cottage in Muskoka, Canada; they are a wealthy family with business all around Canada and the United States, and they own an island where all the family gets together every summer. The grandmother, Augusta, is the head of the family and she is always trying to control her sons in their business and look for the best matches for her grandchildren in order to make good weddings.
But this year things are going to be different: a boy called Jack appears in Muskoka and introduced himself as Jack Wyndham, Augusta’s grandson by the son she disinherited time ago, when he decided to marry an actress. Jack’s father has died and the boy wants to be part of the family business and make money, because his mother and sisters are very poor and he dreams with a better life for them, so Augusta gives him the chance to show if he deserves to be part of the family or not.
Jack is ambitious and not only is he there to make business, but also to make wealthy friends and try to seduce one of his cousins so that he can inherit their fortune, so he puts his eye on Victoria, a beautiful and rebellious girl who is happy to know him and this part of the family her grandmother has never talked about.
But everybody’s plans change when the Great War begins. Canada was one of the non-European countries most involved in the western front at the beginning of the war, so Jack and Chas, Victoria’s fiancé, travel to the French front and there they are trained to become pilots. This is the second part of the story, much more dangerous and gripping, and so far away from the peaceful and carefree summer.
I loved the book. The only negative point I have found is that the story is slow at the beginning, when you are trying to get know the characters because there are a lot; but once you have got to know all of them, they are difficult to forget: Augusta’s power in the family although she’s becoming to feel her age, Olivia’s charm, or Phoebe and her terrifying doll Maryanne. Some of them surprise you at some points in the plot and this doesn’t allow you to stop reading. I have to say that I found Jack extremely ambitious at the beginning, with all his secret plans for getting money from his “new” family, but then I thought he really deserves a part of all that wealth, why not?
The setting is wonderful. I have never been in such a place, what’s more, I had never heard about Muskoka before reading the book, but I really felt I was there while I was reading: in the lake and beaches, going to the neighbour’s house by boat, playing all kinds of sports, etc. It was absolutely idyllic, even with Augusta’s rigid manners and timetables.
The second part is also very vivid: the men in Europe fighting against the German army and the Canadian women at home, trying to get money in charity events and working in factories to make uniforms for the soldiers because at least one member of every family was in the front; all these situations involve you in war time. In this part there are several letters that the characters send to one another cross the Atlantic, which I liked very much, and also we witness some historical events at that time, as the sinking of the Lusitania, for example.
Summarizing, this is a good story that I highly recommend. In fact, I’m about to start reading the second book of the trilogy, Elusive Dawn, because I can’t wait to find out what is going on with Victoria and Jack.
The Muskoka trilogy:
You can find the author here:
Gabriele Wills said:
Thank you for your thoughtful review, Isi. I am so glad that you enjoyed spending time with my “friends”!
I feel they are my friends too, Gabriele!! 😀
Thank YOU very much!!
Gabriele Wills said:
That’s the best compliment an author can receive! 🙂
Hello Isi! I really like your english blog and I think it was such a great idea!
I’ll visit you from time to time.
Great review, Isi! I like the way the two parts sound so different to each other – that can make one part a lot better for the reader, because everyone has different preferences – but it also makes use of methods of storytelling, and the contrast between slow holidays and war is quite strong. Jack does sound a bit mischievous, a liar even, but yes, he was surely entitled to feel he ought to have a place in the family.
Allison @ The Book Wheel said:
WOW! This sounds like an amazing book! Luckily it’s in English because I can’t read it in Spanish!
Shanny: thank you, I’m glad you like it!!
Charlie: thanks! Yes, the contrast between the parts makes the story more interesting because you know that things will never be the same again, not only for wealthy people, but for all the people in these countries.
I have to say I still don’t know what you think about Jack, he is an interesting character, you’ll see.
Allison: yes; it is only available in English, so I recommend you give it a try.
It sounds like a good read! 🙂
RebeccaScaglione - Love at First Book said:
Congrats on your first long English read!
Melinda: It is!! I really enjoyed this story.
Rebecca: thanks, the book is worth the time I spent readint it!
I’m glad you enjoyed the book so much. I loved all three books and now Gabriele is working on a 4th. I’m so excited because I didn’t want it to end.
I can’t wait to read the rest of the series, in fact I already have Elusive Dawn in my kindle! All the characters are well developed and the story is just thrilling, especially in the second part.
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It sounds like a very evocative book, Isi. Thanks for bringing it to my attention – and what a lovely post too, with the old postcards! On that subject – post photos – I always enjoy the way you juxtapose front covers with author photos (and a particularly fabulous hat in this instance). 🙂
It is evocative, indeed; this is the kind of books that literally take you far away!
Thanks for the comment about the pictures. When I started this blog I had a big problem: I like to take photos to my books and I usually put those photos on my reviews in my Spanish blog, but I couldn’t do the same here because the covers are different, so nobody would feel attracted by the post (if you don’t know the book, it is not so interesting). So at last I decided to put togheter the British or American cover (I really can’t know which of them I choose) next to the author, and I think this is good for the post.
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