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the summer before the storm

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.

Muskoka 1

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?

Muskoka 2

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.

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The Muskoka trilogy:

You can find the author here:

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