"This lovely novel transports you into an era of privilege and decadence, which is depicted with such intimate detail and subtlety, I can't fathom how Wills achieved it short of having a secret time machine. The story is perfectly paced and beautifully told from the views of the wonderful characters, many of which I now consider cherished friends. I can't wait to read the second book! " - Ashley Katsuyama, NY
"You have created a masterpiece. I loved every moment I shared with Augusta, Chas, Jack and Ria. I am eagerly awaiting the next Muskoka novel and in the meantime I am sharing my love of this one. My mom vacationed on Lake Joseph as a child in the 1930's and waitressed at Windermere house in the 1940's. She lived in Rosedale and travelled to Europe and plays all those tunes on our piano. I am very appreciative for your depiction of the first world war. My grand-mother lost two brothers in that war and I've always felt that I had no real understanding of it. This novel gave me a glimpse of the horror of war, it felt like a first hand account. I'm now enjoying the CD for The Summer Before the Storm, but please publish your sequel soon. In the meantime I'm sure I will enjoy A Place To Call Home ... [and} Moon Hall, so as you can see you have an avid and dedicated fan." - Janet Porter, Lindsay, Ontario
The Summer Before The Storm is simply marvelous! Another wonderful story which captivated me from beginning to end. Your vividly descriptive settings transported me to a new place each time I read. It was like watching a movie in my head. Your fascinating and intriguing characters are so real, so believable, each one unique and passionate in his/her own way. I couldn't help but be drawn into the emotions and circumstances of their lives. Once again, you have intertwined fact and fiction into a compelling story that educates and stirs emotion. As I read, the 'Forward' of your book periodically came to mind, making me think about how lucky the people are who have found their own 'Muskoka'. (You may have coined a new phrase.) Congratulations on another fabulous story! I am anxiously awaiting 'Part 2'! - Nancy Graham Lindsay, Ontario
"I found The Summer Before the Storm to be a bigger-than-life family saga. It reminded me of R. F. Delderfield's A Horseman Riding By. In my opinion, Gabriele Wills's ability to evoke a feeling for the times and characters is equal to Delderfield's. She has an amazing ability to portray multiple characters, most of whom are quite wealthy, during an idyllic Muskoka summer as it was in pre-war 1914. This summer contrasts starkly with how their lives are dramatically changed by the onset of WWI. The reader will surely draw parallels between the senselessness of this war and the current conflict in Iraq. I knew this novel was far above average when I found myself neglecting important business matters to sneak in another hour or two of reading. If you like grand scale novels, this is the one. I anxiously await book two." - Robert Schoenberger, Pittsford, NY
"I literally just finished The Summer Before the Storm and wanted to write to you about it. How lovely and yet how evil it was of you to end the book that way. I had purposely delayed and found ways not to finish the story -- including starting to read the book again and even rereading your first two novels -- knowing full well I would hate to finish this one (I just didn't know how much). All that said, it was an absolutely wonderful read. I haven't been that emotionally invested in a story in many years. Initially I had worried it would not live up to your first two novels, but it actually turned out to be even more enjoyable." - Amitav Dash, Guelph, Ontario
"An endearing, engaging, and charismatic historical fiction set in the beautiful Muskokas in the year 1914. The cast of characters are endless and cover both ends of the spectrum from the proper, well-mannered and etiquettely correct, to the shifty, devious and flouting! [Amid] the gleaming waters of Lake Rosseau and the island that houses 'The Grand Muskoka', which is only accessible by steamboat, you find yourself morphing into the ink on the page and becoming part of the Wyndhams, the Carringtons and all the other families. Gabriele Wills writes with such description and clarity that I could see myself in an old-fashioned ball gown circulating among the guests without them seeing me! The first part of the book allows you to become acquainted with the rich and powerful and their elegant dinners and get-togethers. The language of the era is right on, so much so that you can't help but put a little "accent" in to your speech as you're reading. I fell in love with Ria and Chas... As the families' high-spirited and cheerful days moved forward, so does the advent of one of Canada's darkest hours, World War I. The story shifts from Muskoka to England and France as we watch these rich and powerful families enlist to fight for freedom and peace.
Gabriele Wills deserves a standing ovation for the research and knowledge that went into this book, and for the skill she possesses in writing with such clarity and vivid detail that the reader is transplanted back in time, awakening your five senses as if you were there. Everyone young and old needs to peruse this brilliant piece of literary genius!!! " - Louise, Ontario
"The Summer Before the Storm: How do I love this book? Let me count the ways". This book is more than a novel. It is social history. It is about a privileged community living a hedonistic lifestyle in a specific historical period in a real, specific summer retreat, Muskoka, Canada. A very large cast of characters has been imagined. The larger context for their story is world events and their shapers.
The author's familiarity and love of Muskoka is obvious. Her meticulous, scholarly research is evidenced by an extensive bibliography. The inclusion of the words of the songs of the period was inspired. Many readers will relate to Vera Brittain's TESTAMENT OF YOUTH listed in the bibliography. For this reader, in the England part of the book V. Woolf's MRS. DALLOWAY came to mind. I liked the heroine, Victoria (well named) .. a defier of convention who encouraged others to be the same. She was not a crusading suffragette. She was, rather, a toned down feminist. Her premonitions kept the reader engaged as did Jack's strategic moves. Other interesting personalities, to mention only a few were autocratic Augusta (well named); Helena and Lizzie "on the make" and Phyllis, the venomous prune. It was a given that those who found themselves overseas would find ways to stay connected. The reader knows there is more of this story to be told... I eagerly await volume 2." - Muriel Cluett, Toronto, Ontario
"Excellent as always, can't wait till the next one! The Summer Before The Storm is definitely a page turner. The characters, setting and story are so real and vivid. How wonderful it is that there is more to come!" - Eunice Lay, Toronto, Ontario
"I have just finished reading Gabriele Wills' The Summer Before the Storm. I thoroughly enjoyed being transported to the Age of Elegance and for a time living in a simpler world before the onset of WWI. I just loved Wills' characters of Ria and Chas, and loved to hate the unsavoury Augusta, Aunt Phyllis, Phoebe, James and Helena. As they summered in leisure and schemed at Wyndwood, amongst the pine trees of the Muskoka Lakes, I felt as if I were seeing the faces in Frank W. Mickelthwaite's treasured, early Muskoka photographs springing to rich, vibrant life! I am looking forward to reading Wills' next book, Elusive Dawn, while sitting on my dock and dreaming of those bygone days, and wishing that the charming, sexy Chas might stop by to ask me for a game of tennis." - historical fiction author Cheryl Cooper
"This book is wonderful historical fiction about a wealthy Toronto family who summer in Muskoka, Ontario. The setting takes place on the island in Lake Rosseau that once belonged entirely to my family. The year is 1914 - the summer before the outbreak of World War 1. I found that the book captures the beauty and magic of Muskoka and the exuberant frivolity of the rich. While the characters are flitting to and fro from island to island in search of pleasure, the days and nights draw us closer and closer to the horrendous reality that becomes World War 1. Still a young and innocent nation, Canada, as well as the men and woman of rich Muskoka, step up to the starting line and sign up to fight. There they are counted among those who are brave and courageous enough to lay down their lives for freedom and peace.
Near the end of the book we are transported from Muskoka and Toronto to England and France as the war begins. We go across the Atlantic ocean with the characters, who begin the arduous task of growing up. As the book ends, we are left, like the characters, wanting to know how the rest of their lives will turn out. Fortunately for us, there is another novel that follows this one (Elusive Dawn!) and at least one more that the author is planning to write.
It is evident, by reading the book, that the author, Gabriele Wills, has not only spent a great deal of time researching the historical elements of this novel, she has spent many summers in Muskoka as well. Not only does this novel richly entertain, it educates us too. This is a must read for your library." - The Rev. Fay Patterson-Willsie
"The Summer Before The Storm was fantastic. I loved it and I could not put it down. Having spent a lot of my summers in the Muskokas, I was very interested with the history. I cannot wait for book # 2. I have read every one of your other books and couldn't put them down either. You are a fantastic author. I would recommend this book to everyone." - Vicki Kraayvanger, Peterborough, ON
"I picked up this wonderful book when I was on vacation this summer in Muskoka. I love the Muskokas and thought it would be good reading but I did not expect that I would be mesmerized by this book. I have never enjoyed a book as much and cannot wait to read Elusive Dawn. The way the characters are described, their feelings, and the description brought everything that I love about Muskoka and that era to life for me. I have passed this book on to three different people who have felt the same way about the story. I am anxiously awaiting the next book. Thank you for writing such a wonderful story." - Heidi Meyer
The Summer Before The Storm is fantastic! I love historical fiction. You get a real sense of what people were thinking at the time. There are tons of Canadiana references throughout the whole book, I love that! It is one of those epic adventures with characters that you think about while you are out leading your daily life! I can't wait to see how Chas and Victoria are doing... What's even better?! It's book 1, now I don't have to slow down as I get to the end, I know my new friends will be waiting for me in book 2! - Shirley, Toronto, ON
"This book drew me in from page 1, and I am very much enjoying this summer read. Each and every character has been brought vividly to life, as well as the homes they live in, right down to the most minute detail. It is truly like stepping back to 1914. It is one of those books that you take with you everywhere, in case there is a spare minute to read even one more page. I look forward to the next book, and am looking for the previous two! Here's to Canadian authors!" - Bonnie MacDougal - Oro Station, ON
"I just finished the Muskoka book and it was fantastic!! Congratulations on another great book! ... many points in the book brought me to tears.... I love history but tend to find the war stuff quite boring - however you made it all interesting by connecting it to great characters! Thanks for a great read." - Colleen McKay, Ajax, Ontario
"I just finished reading a signed copy of The Summer Before The Storm. I have summered on Lake Rosseau for over 50 years. The Eatons' cottage was close by and we heard lots of stories about 'The Big Boathouse' that housed their steam ship, The Wanda. Your book brought back many memories. My grandfather came up every weekend in his Ditchburn from the Gravenhurst wharf." - A Muskoka cottager
"I thoroughly enjoyed The Summer Before The Storm from start to finish!! A reader always knows you have a good book in hand when there is a compelling urge to sneak ahead a couple of pages!!! I can only imagine the task it is to assemble such a rich cast of characters, develop their roles in the story and wrap them all up in a book. You have a wonderful talent!! Of course, I am always looking for those architectural gems and am never disappointed!! Congratulations Gabriele, and continued success." - Allan Dracup, Cavan, Ontario.
"I got up at 5A.M on Saturday morning to read the last bit of The Summer Before The Storm . I didn't want to spend the whole day doing mundane chores without knowing how it ended. I'm totally addicted! I enjoy your writing style, and love your /my characters, and resent the fact that I cannot continue my relationship with them right away. I'll read anything, it's an addiction, but most of the stuff I read leaves me feeling like I've wasted my time. Like a food addiction, I usually stuff it quickly into my mouth and swallow without chewing. I chewed and savoured every word in your book. I loved it! Get cracking on number 2!!!" - Susan Salvati, Mississauga, Ontario
"This is another fabulous read. You have a way of drawing the reader into the lives and emotions of your characters. Your characters are so very real. I felt I was right there with them. It is also meaningful to me to have signed copies of your books. I can hardly wait for your next Muskoka novel. Keep on writing! " - Marie North, Courtice, Ontario
"Your thorough research in combination with deep personal memory has given your story an authentic richness. Your book has succeeded where many others have failed, for it is evident you lived enough of the 'Muskoka life' to enrich so many of your images. You successfully wove your own personal tapestry of granite, water, sky, sun, wind, waves, the exhiliration of running freely in the magnificent company of nature with daringly delightful individual souls, each of whom had stories to tell, lives to live as part of and seperate from the Muskoka backdrop. Your sholarly imagination provided the chinking that has held the story so firmly together. I especially love how well you captured the tensions and contrasts of an era when the world had seemingly gone mad, families were uprooted, lives changed while others were destroyed. The world was being redefined, yet Muskoka prevailed to bring comfort and joy amidst times of tumultuous upheaval. I hope the next book in the saga is well underway for certain lives must continue, changes must occur, disasters and wars must meld with the beautiful, romantic, sustaining images of Muskoka. A Muskoka that will not relent despite what the fates might have in store! Well done!" - Marilas McInnis, Lindsay, Ontario
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