A Place Called Winter by Patrick Gale

I loved this book.

A Place Called Winter by Patrick Gale

‘We all have our unspeakable pasts here.’

At the end of the 19th century, Harry Cane is a shy elder son, bound by British convention.  He marries, as is conventional, fathers a child, and spends his time as a man of leisure.  Harry’s life is quite comfortable, if not especially fulfilling, until he embarks on an affair.  But this affair will cost Harry dearly, and forces him to leave his wife and child and emigrate to the Canadian prairies.

‘It was only as he was before the Dominion Lands agent himself, entering his claim on the acres for which Varcoe had just filed his deed of abandonment, that the rashness of what he was about – committing himself to three years on a hundred and sixty acres he had only seen on an entirely unhelpful map – was brought home to him.’

After a year in Canada learning how to farm, Harry is allotted a homestead in a place called Winter.  Can Harry survive in this isolated place?  Can he escape from his demons, and make a new life for himself?

It’s hard to review this novel without introducing any spoilers which, while they’ll provide context, will completely ruin the impact of the story as it should (in my view) be read.  I found myself completely caught up in Harry’s story, unable to put it down, wanting some aspects to be different.  I admired Harry and was often irritated by his passivity in some circumstances (sometimes simultaneously) but admires his courage.  And, as the story unfolded, moving between an uncomfortable present and a shadowed past, I wanted Harry to find happiness.

I understand that this novel is loosely based on a real family mystery.  In some ways that made the novel more difficult to read, in other ways more satisfying.  And the ending?  You’ll have to read it for yourself.  I loved this book.


Jennifer Cameron-Smith

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