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A Place Called Winter Paperback – March 22, 2016
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"Absorbing, moving and beautifully written, with echoes of EM Forster which I found especially enjoyable."―Amanda Craig
"Beautifully structured around the warmest of warm hearts, but it's also run through with something new: a devastating chill of loss, fear and exile which keeps you shaking your head and biting your lip in concern and shame and disbelief."―Louisa Young
"Bold, moving, intensely erotic - I couldn't put down this tale of passion and endurance, told with such tenderness."―Patricia Duncker
"A tender tale of loss and love"―Sunday Times
About the Author
Patrick Gale was born on the Isle of Wight in 1962. He spent his infancy at Wandsworth Prison, which his father governed, then grew up in Winchester. He now lives on a farm near Land's End. He's a passionate gardener, cook, and cellist and chairs the North Cornwall Book Festival each October. His fifteen novels include A Perfectly Good Man and Notes From an Exhibition - both of which were Richard and Judy Bookclub selections, The Whole Day Through and Rough Music. His latest, A Place Called Winter, draws intriguingly on his family history. You can find out more on his website www.galewarning.org.
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After some brutal adventures and misadventures, Harry Cane does find maturity, fulfillment and love. While for the most part, the story is well told and satisfying for the reader, there are some missteps by the author along the way (my opinion). The main character Came is seen to evolve into a physically strong and confident farmer at one stage of the story, and yet he is also portrayed as ambivalent and tentative through most of the remaining story. Illustrative of this contradiction is Cane's relationship with the sadistic villain of the story, for whom he maintains a continuing vulnerability that overwhelms his new strengths and very instincts to physically survive and to protect loved ones.
Author Patrick Gale also tacks on second, and very confusing, side story, involving the protagonist's confinement is mental institutions in Canada. The whys and wherefores of this sidebar are not well explained and serve to detract from the main story.
Stil, even with a story line laden with multiple tragedies and betrayals, there is a kind of redemption at the conclusion of the book. That ending is more along the lines of E.M. Forster's "Maurice" than the contemporary "Sparsholt Affair" however.
I found the first few pages intriguing. However the story then reverts from the present to the past life of Harry Cane, and the first half of the book did not hold my attention. I found the character of Harry Cane a little too indolent and spineless, and failed to understand why, after a childhood at a British boy's boarding school, he did not realize his homosexual tendencies. His marriage was obviously one of convenience for both parties. So sad that homosexuals felt it necessary to marry in order to meet conventions at that time.
Although the story gains momentum in the second half when Cane journeys to Canada, some of the other characters are one-dimensional, especially that of Troels Munck who reminded me of the evil villain in a Victorian melodrama. Munck appears intermittently throughout the novel as if he just "pops in" at Moose Jaw or Winter. Given the immense distances from England to the Canadian prairies, and the time the journey took in those days, I found his conveniently timed appearances a little difficult to believe.
I enjoyed the beautiful sketches of the prairie landscape and the family scenes at Moose Jaw, which I found totally credible. But the scene with Ursula near the end just did not work for me, and the leaps from the Bethel rehabilitation centre back to the past disrupted the flow of the story.
Wonderful prose, evocative descriptions, but the story just did not engage me emotionally.