Set in Muskoka, a popular Canadian vacation spot for the wealthy and privileged, this book follows the joy and trials of one family just before, and after the start of World War 1. The first half of the book details the charmed lives of the islands' inhabitants, as they attend balls, canoe, skinny dip, fall in and out of love, and squabble over family money. The second half deals with the start of the Great War and how it affects the lives of our bright young characters--with many of the men enlisting, and everyone else trying to do their part.
While I am by no means an expert in history, this book felt rather realistic and authentic to me. I have to believe that the author spent a lot of time on research and really immersed herself in the era, so that readers could in turn become immersed in the era. I really enjoyed the details about the lifestyle of the women in particular. On one hand, they are terribly sheltered and still politically powerless. Their bathing outfits include stockings and caps. On the other hand, you see a lot of spirit among the female characters, with several of them trying to further their educations, becoming doctors and mechanics and the like. It's a time of progress, slow though it might be, and the author captures that very well.
For me, the second half of the book was far more enjoyable than the first. I loved the drama and pain of the war, and how the characters are forced to change to survive. The character development is fantastic. Victoria, once one of the more immature members of the family, goes through great trauma and comes out of it with a stiffer backbone.
I love how flawed the characters are, and how even the best of them make terrible choices and errors in judgement.