#aww2021 · contemporary fiction · new release

New Release Book Review: Before the Storm by Di Morrissey

Title: Before the Storm

Author: Di Morrissey

Published: October 27th 2020

Publisher: Pan Macmillan

Pages: 432

Genres:  Fiction, Contemporary

RRP: $34.99

Rating: 4 stars

Face her demons? Or run?

After being double-crossed by a devious colleague, career woman Ellie Conlan quits her job on principle. With no idea what to do next, she retreats to Storm Harbour, an idyllic Victorian beach town.

Ellie’s grandfather runs The Storm Harbour Chronicle, the trusted local newspaper. As Ellie is drawn into a story about a development which could split the coastal community – and involves her with the influential O’Neill family – an event she has long suppressed threatens to overwhelm her.

Dark clouds gather as rumours fly and tensions mount. And when a violent storm breaks and rages, Ellie will finally have to confront her past.

Review:

With an eye-catching newspaper overlay wrapping the front and back inside covers of Before the Storm, the latest release from Di Morrissey, the overarching theme is immediately established. A story of journalism, family, legacies, tension, small town politics, power, entitlement, greed, truth and secrets, Before the Storm is Di Morrisey’s fresh addition to her impressive back catalogue.

Di Morrissey’s Before the Storm introduces the key character of Ellie Conlan, a young woman who must consider the cost of confronting her past demons. This enterprising young woman is at a crossroads in her career when a fellow employee betrays her. Ellie is forced to quit and in frustration, Ellie decides to flee to the quiet seaside location of Storm Harbour. Hoping to find a sense of peace in the beachside community of Storm Harbour, Ellie reconnects with her grandfather and his local newspaper. Before long, Ellie is taken in by a development plan for the local town that appears to be incredibly divisive. This story leads Ellie to a powerful local family, which in turn results in the resurfacing of a secret event from her past. As Ellie is consumed by her dark past, Storm Harbour begins to feel like a pressure cooker, does Ellie have the strength to settle her past demons and help Storm Harbour overcome these tense community relations?

Di Morrissey is a family favourite. My mother and I always look forward to her once-a-year release. Traditionally, a new Di Morrissey book is published in the pre Christmas period, just in time for some holiday reading time. For me personally, Di Morrissey’s Before the Storm marked the very last book I read over the summer school holiday period. It was the perfect book to close my relaxing holiday period with. Before the Storm was undemanding, absorbing and enjoyable.

Filled with a good collection of colourful and diverse characters, Before the Storm allows Di Morrissey to delve into some interesting character dynamics. The lead of this tale, Ellie Conlan, has a great background to unpack. I appreciated the slow release of information pertaining to Ellie’s confronting past. As a journalist herself for many years, Di Morrissey has directly drawn on her wealth of experience to outline a main character with a similar career path to herself. There was a strong element of realism to Ellie’s character, her form of employment, her work at her grandfather’s local newspaper and her investigative approach to the development issues at Storm Harbour. This adds a great deal of substance and a high level of interest to the unfolding tale.

With her recent work in launching and producing a monthly local newspaper, Di Morrissey has directly linked this experience to her narrative. We are henceforth presented with a storyline filled with issues, divisions, conflict, opinion, conjecture, facts, simmering tension, power, influence, authority, investigation, greed, secrets, gossip and justice. Above all, Before the Storm is the tale of a community at odds and a woman facing personal conflict in her mission to settle a community at odds. In this fight to achieve a sense of peace to this tranquil community, those who are involved in this moving story face many roadblocks, which must be overcome using their own inner strength and sense of community.

As usual with any Di Morrissey novel the landscape is the central and shining feature, this is no exception with Storm Harbour, the local base for Before the Storm. With a stunning coastal backdrop which comes with stormy seas and fresh sea air, Before the Storm fully immerses the reader in a rich Australian feel setting. It was a joy to walk beside Ellie and the community of Storm Harbour for the duration of Before the Storm, thanks to Australia’s favourite storyteller, Di Morrissey.

Before the Storm by Di Morrissey was published on 27th October 2020 by Pan Macmillan. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.

To learn more about the author of Before the Storm, Di Morrissey, visit here.

*I wish to thank Pan Macmillan for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.

Before the Storm is book #5 of the 2021 Australian Women Writers Challenge

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