A Spell of Winter: WINNER OF THE WOMEN'S PRIZE FOR FICTION

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A Spell of Winter: WINNER OF THE WOMEN'S PRIZE FOR FICTION

A Spell of Winter: WINNER OF THE WOMEN'S PRIZE FOR FICTION

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It’s about a young woman, her brother, and a strange life with absent parents and the odd characters who are there in their place. It all sounds like a rather standard female-centric historical fiction novel, but Cathy's journey and Dunmore's psychological insights took on a hard edge that subverted all of my expectations and then some. This tale of forbidden love, dark secrets, and intimacy that crosses into dangerous territory, never quite delivers high stakes or tension, serious threat or heartbreak.

She doesn't rationalize or explain away her characters' actions, but simply presents them without judgment, and while the characters may be difficult to like, they are certainly never dull. Cathy wants the pregnancy terminated before anyone else notices, and Kate arranges an illegal abortion for her.I was especially taken with the last third or so of the book, as we move towards and into the First World War, and Catherine must decide her future in a very different present.

Mostly the children run wild in the woods and there is a sense of nature, both bounteous and grisly in Dunmore’s atmospheric setting where images of violence against small animals recur. No one talks about their mother, who has abandoned them to live in the south of France – she was a bit wild, with crazy Irish hair that poor young Cathy seems to have inherited.This experience of working in many different countries and cultures has been very important to my work. Whilst this makes complete narrative sense, I was so enraptured by the air of quiet eeriness that I couldn’t help but feel a little sad to see the goalposts shift somewhat.

Attempts by Dunmore to make Cathy a "modern update" of Brontë's Catherine Earnshaw turns A Spell of Winter into "a string of salacious, increasingly overwritten adventures straight out of the pulp-fiction files". Mostly having a buddy just helps motivate me to actually pick up a book that I’ve been wanting to read but for whatever reason just haven’t made time for on my own. Her writing is so powerful and evocative it enables her to depict the dark events in this novel as something beautiful and real. The maturity of Catherine, even though she lives in a world with limited experiences, is amazing and is possible because she accepts what is and keeps an even appearance to the outside world.

I had such a strange reaction to this book: I loved this more than anything I have read in a long time, but when I started thinking about writing this review, I had the hardest time putting my finger on why. In the late 1980s I began to publish short stories, and these were the beginning of a breakthrough into fiction.

I wanted us to wake to a kingdom of ice where our breath would turn to icicles as it left our lips, and we would walk through tunnels of snow to the outhouses and find birds fallen dead from the air. Catherine and her brother Rob grow up on a large but failing English country estate owned by their grandfather. I don't think this is the kind of book that people intensely hate - I think it's more of a 'it was fine, nothing special' for a lot of readers. It's a bit of a demanding read--Dunmore leaps across time and space, her narrative mirroring the way people think, but as a result, you are immersed completely.

I’ve found the book lingering in my thoughts ever since I finished it, but I still wish she’d stick with the gothic vibes. The right elements are there: a complex and distinct protagonist, a gothic (dark, often intense) view of relationships and experiences with a poetic (if unrefined) voice to match, and a well-intended character arc. The chill which has taken hold of the crumbling previously grand country house and its occupants is almost tangible - you will get cold fingers just holding the book and turning the pages. Abandoned by her mother as a child, embarrassed by the mental breakdown of her father that led to his hospitalisation, and ignored by the grandfather who finds too much pain in her resemblance to his absent daughter, she clings to her brother, Rob, for comfort.



  • Fruugo ID: 258392218-563234582
  • EAN: 764486781913
  • Sold by: Fruugo

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