What’s it all about?:
In the golden 1900s, Harry Cane, a shy, eligible gentleman of leisure is drawn from a life of quiet routine into courting and marrying Winnie, eldest daughter of the fatherless Wells clan, who are not quite as respectable as they would appear. They settle by the sea and have a daughter and conventional marriage does not seem such a tumultuous change after all. When a chance encounter awakens scandalous desires never acknowledged until now, however, Harry is forced to forsake the land and people he loves for a harsh new life as a homesteader on the newly colonized Canadian prairies. There, in a place called Winter, he will come to find a deep love within an alternative family, a love imperiled by war, madness and an evil man of undeniable magnetism.
If you’ve never read a Patrick Gale, stop now and pick up this book. From the author of the bestselling NOTES FROM AN EXHIBITION comes an irresistible, searching and poignant historical novel of love, relationships, secrets and escape.
What did I think?:
I’ve always enjoyed Patrick Gale’s work, having read Notes From An Exhibition and A Perfectly Good Man, the latter of which I loved, but when I saw the hype that this novel was getting and read the synopsis I knew I simply had to read it. And what a story it is. Oh my goodness, without a doubt this is my favourite thing that Patrick Gale has written (er…so far, she says with quiet confidence not having read the entirety of his back catalogue!). It’s not an easy read at points and it certainly played with my emotions on multiple occasions but that’s the best kind of book for me. This is a novel that I can really feel the reverberations of the plot and the characters months after reading it and it is certainly a story I am still eagerly anticipating to re-read at a later date so the author can put me under the same spell as he did on the first read through.
The story is set in the 1900’s and when we first meet our main character, Harry Cane it is in an asylum where he is undergoing a harsh treatment regime for events that have happened in his past that the reader has, as yet, no clue about. Everything is slowly revealed as the narrative pans back to when Harry was a shy, unpresumptuous young man, married to a woman from the Wells family and utterly miserable until a chance occurrence causes him to up sticks and leave everything (including his wife) and become a member of a new, but very isolated community in the Canadian prairies which have recently been colonised. His brave decision leads to him undergoing a remarkable journey, both personal and physical as he struggles to deal with the harsh environment and deprivation, brutal weather conditions and loneliness whilst finally falling in love and dealing with people who don’t have perhaps the best or kindest intentions towards him. It’s almost like a coming of age story as Harry finally figures out who he is as a person and a man, what he wants out of life and the way he overcomes both physical and emotional hardships is truly beautiful to read.
I honestly can’t give enough praise to this book. It’s a fine piece of writing that deserves to be savoured and I found myself quite bereft when I had finished. I especially love that Patrick Gale based some of his narrative on the real adventures of his great-grandfather who left pre-war England to build a new life and farm in a remote area of Canada which only made the story more authentic and interesting for me as a reader. Harry himself was a wonderful character who made mistakes but was a good, gentle man who is so strong in the face of extreme hardship. I don’t really have any criticism about this novel to be perfectly honest. Some reviewers have mentioned the slow start but I enjoyed the build up and felt we got to know and fall in love with Harry better as a character because of it. Seriously, if you haven’t read this book and have always been intrigued about Patrick Gale, do yourself a favour and read A Place Called Winter, it’s a stunning piece of work that I won’t easily forget.
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):