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Winterwood: A Novel Hardcover – January 23, 2007

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; First Edition edition (January 23, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596911638
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596911635
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 2.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,753,921 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Freelance writer Redmond Hatch loves his young wife, Catherine—he is 40 and she is 22 when they wed in 1981—and adores his infant daughter, Imogen, but in Irish author McCabe's eighth novel (his prior work included Breakfast on Pluto and The Butcher Boy, both shortlisted for the Booker Prize), Redmond's happy slice of the world cruelly crumbles. A few years into wedded bliss, Redmond's wife cuckolds and then divorces him; he feigns suicide, assumes a false identity and disappears into a sad-sack life that spirals sharply downward after he reads a newspaper account of the suicide of convicted child murderer (and creepy acquaintance) Ned Strange: Redmond's suddenly haunted by nightmares and hallucinations in which Ned molests him. He stalks his former family and, in 1991, kidnaps and kills his estranged daughter, burying her in the isolated countryside—their imaginary "winterwood"—and visiting her grave over the next decade. Redmond, however, has yet to bottom out. Despite a fractured, hard-to-follow chronology, this tale about a man's descent into madness is both artfully repellent and hypnotically compelling. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Creepy. How you feel about this sparsely written Irish story will depend on whether you think creepy is an attractive or a troubling adjective for a book. In the fall of 1981, Redmond Hatch, an Irish newspaper reporter, returns to his small hometown to write about changing traditions. There he meets a strange fiddler named, appropriately enough, Ned Strange. Strange once knew the orphaned Hatch's parents, and the two men form a troubling relationship. As the novel progresses, Redmond becomes an increasingly unreliable narrator. As events unfold in a nonlinear fashion, a feeling of dread becomes palpable. Like Stephen King's The Shining, this novel is terrifying in its exploration of what can happen to seemingly ordinary people in bizarre situations. Marta Segal
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Customer Reviews

The ending seemed rushed and incomplete.
C. Mischo
The disjointed nature of the narrative is a bit of a marvel, but it succeeds in distracting rather than adding to the experience.
Paul F. Johnson
It was not a terrible book - just not quite my cup of tea.
M. Marlene Smith

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By John L Murphy TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 20, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This is the fifth novel I've read of his; you can find my reviews of "The Dead School," "The Butcher Boy," "Breakfast on Pluto," and "Call Me the Breeze" on Amazon US. By now, long into a career that has earned McCabe acclaim, his protagonist Redmond Hatch fits a familiar pattern of a steady decline from middle-class suburban happiness, marital bliss, and contemporary creature comforts. By now, it becomes apparent that "Winterwood" repeats the narrative arc, and defamiliarizing storytelling twists, that chart the decay of a mind, an erosion of ethics, and a collapse into violence. All these characterize McCabe's fiction: he excels at bringing you within a couple of hundred pages from stability into chaos, often channelled from a disorientingly casual, knowing, and comforting voice that takes you into its confidence only to relate escalating tales of mayhem and murder.

The reviews posted on Amazon US practically gave away the entire plot. Perhaps, given the trajectory of McCabe's sorrowful taletellers, this may not spoil any surprises. By the eighties, a third of the way through the book's pages, I saw the end coming, and the rest of the book, as they say, was all downhill. So, what kept me reading this grim account? McCabe's best quality remains his diabolically intimate, insinuatingly composed conversational style. It's as if the Archfiend took you into his parlor for a fireside chat.

However, few elements stand out for their individually rendered scene-setting, or their particular turns of phrase. The effect of such novels by McCabe accumulates gradually. They can be confusing; more than once I had to check chronology or casual asides that, in giving or withholding key details, otherwise would have left a casual reader bewildered.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By S. P. Miskowski on September 11, 2009
Format: Paperback
Novelist Patrick McCabe (The Butcher Boy; Breakfast on Pluto) examines the social and political arc of the past twenty-five years in Ireland as a parallel to the shifting fortunes and inexorable decline of his protagonist in Winterwood. The protagonist/narrator's attempts to leap into the competitive modern world exemplify the efforts of his country to do the same. At this and at a more personal level Winterwood is about the difficulty of extricating oneself from the ghosts of the past, and the pernicious nature of deeply imprinted, horrific childhood experiences.

When journalist Redmond Hatch returns to his former home in the rural town of Slievenageeha to write a colorful article about the folk traditions there, he meets a native named Ned Strange and immediately falls under his spell. Strange is a local favorite, with his country dialect, fanciful anecdotes and old Irish songs. His quaintness buys his way into the company of people who see him as a relic, a human time capsule conveniently preserving the history that they view as a novelty. But Redmond sees a different side of Ned when they are alone together, drinking. Ned reveals his belligerence, rage and cruelty--and a good deal of knowledge about Redmond's family life before he left Slievenageeha. Ned is one of several characters who impose themselves, physically and psychically, on children. Throughout the book Ned functions as a catalyst, a plausible character, a composite, a phantom, and a cipher. That McCabe is able to make all of this work indicates the virtuosity of his prose.

Redmond is a man who dearly wants to believe the things he tells us about himself. Like Ned, he has adopted a face that will allow him into polite company while keeping secret the nature he knows he cannot share.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Daniel A. Scott on May 7, 2009
Format: Paperback
I got about a fourth of the way through it and just couldn't take it anymore. It was a struggle just to get that far and what I did read was confusing and depressing. Pass on this one.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By David H. Schleicher on February 12, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Patrick McCabe's haunting novel "Winterwood" begins charmingly enough with our narrator Redmond Hatch telling of his time revisiting his old mountain home in Ireland and reveling in the tall tales of the proud local drunk, Ned "Auld Pappie" Strange. There's an almost instant undercurrent of dread to the storytelling as we quickly become aware that neither Ned nor Edmond are going to be very reliable narrators, both soon overcome with the dark secrets and the Banshee ghosts of their pasts. Ned, it seems, my not be so innocent a weaver of tales, and Redmond is crippled by a crumbling marriage to a woman he is madly in love with and a troubled childhood he can't seem to escape.

McCabe is a master of writing dialogue in local dialect, as I often found myself reading out loud the early stories of Ned Strange and speaking in a rather effective Irish accent.

Even more so, McCabe is a master of stark, economical writing. Shocking details come quick and fast, presented nonchalantly as the story progresses so that they soon fester in the mind of both the reader and the narrator until they creep back into the narrative in horrifying ways.

There are times when the narration becomes a challenge to follow, as the book becomes rife with name-changes, locale-switching, and no apparent chronology to the order of events. Even the chapter titles and time and place headers become deceptive, as once lost inside Redmond's head, all becomes jumbled in half-truths, lies, exaggerations, under-statements, and grotesque speculations.

Still, McCabe is able to ground things with simple passages that are both lyrical and haunting in their slim descriptive power. By the time you finish visiting "Winterwood" you are left with the singularly unnerving feeling of being chilled to the bone. Hell, it seems, is a cold, cold place where the devil can't wait to shelter you.
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