My thanks to Netgalley and Tinder Press for the review copy. Published in hardback on 24 March 2015
About the book
To find yourself, sometimes you must lose everything. A privileged elder son, and stammeringly shy, Harry Cane has followed convention at every step. Even the beginnings of an illicit, dangerous affair do little to shake the foundations of his muted existence – until the shock of discovery and the threat of arrest cost him everything. Forced to abandon his wife and child, Harry signs up for emigration to the newly colonised Canadian prairies. Remote and unforgiving, his allotted homestead in a place called Winter is a world away from the golden suburbs of turn-of-the-century Edwardian England. And yet it is here, isolated in a seemingly harsh landscape, under the threat of war, madness and an evil man of undeniable magnetism that the fight for survival will reveal in Harry an inner strength and capacity for love beyond anything he has ever known before. In this exquisite journey of self-discovery, loosely based on a real life family mystery, Patrick Gale has created an epic, intimate human drama, both brutal and breathtaking. It is a novel of secrets, sexuality and, ultimately, of great love.
Patrick Gale is one of my favourite authors and I was almost slightly afraid to read his new novel, Why? Well, it is a departure in time and place from many of his other novels and I wondered if I would still love his writing as much. Well, I’m so pleased to say that A Place Called Winter is definitely not a departure from his usual wonderful writing. Patrick Gale is a master storyteller and this book proves once again why he is one of Britain’s top authors. A Place Called Winter is a well crafted, moving novel of love and repressed feelings. Patrick Gale creates a sense of time and place that is pitch perfect.
Harry is a shy stammering elder son, somewhat overshadowed by his younger brother Jack. Following conventions of the day, Harry marries Winnie. They are both perfectly nice people, but in reality their affections lie elsewhere and they aren’t right for each other. Harry’s true nature is revealed when he falls in love with a man. In Edwardian London this kind of relationship is beyond the bounds of acceptability and when it is discovered he is forced to leave his wife and child and sail to seek a new life in Canada. He works hard to set up his homestead and comes to know his neighbours and learn a new way of life. Patrick Gale has conveyed exceptionally well how harsh life was for new settlers in this cold, isolated part of Canada.
I was so moved reading of Harry’s interraction with his neighbours Paul and Petra Slaymaker from when they first meet, to nursing him through a dangerous fever through to deeper bonds forming. Without writing directly of his characters emotions, such is Gale’s skill that you can sense their sadness, loneliness and yearning for affection. How is it that he can use so few words to convey so much meaning? This is a beautifully written novel and I cannot recommend it highly enough – a 5* read and I think it will be hard to find a better book this year.