This was NOT sent to me by NetGalley, but instead was a Christmas present, from Mr FD requested by me.
I LOVE Patrick Gale’s books – I first read “Rough Music”, picked up in Ottaka’s bookshop in Milton Keynes on a 99p “We Think You Will Love This” promotion. I did love it, and there isn’t one of his books that I haven’t really enjoyed, although I think I found “The Cat Sanctuary” to be the one I enjoyed least. I haven’t read all his books, and look forward to reading others at a later date. You may have seen the TV adaptation of hos bok, ” Man in an Orange Shirt”, which I very much enjoyed too.
A PLACE CALLED WINTER by Patrick Gale
The “blurb” reads:
A Place Called Winter was a Radio 2 Book Club Choice on publication and went on to be shortlisted for the Costa Novel Prize, the Walter Scott Prize and the 2016 Independent Booksellers Book of the Year award.
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.
This is one of those novels that you rarely come across – one that you cannot bear to put down because you want to read more, yet, at the same time, you want to read so slowly, because you don’t want it to finish.
From the very first pages I was drawn into the story – why was a well born Englishman, so obviously sane, being treated in a lunatic asylum? Knowing the author’s tropes, I imagined it was something to do with his sexuality, but there was much more to be discovered.
The breadth of the story, the strong characters, both male and female, the tragedy – all of this took my breath away. I really cared for the fate of these people, and found the descriptions of pioneer life in Canada really interesting. It touches on attitudes to homosexuality in Edwardian England, but what is fascinating too is the way that Harry, respêctably married as he is, has no way of expressing his feelings – he is not capable of articulating such emotions, because, at the time, such things just weren’t talked about. What made it more interesting is the fact that it is rooted firmly in reality, telling, as it does, the story of Gale’s maternal great grandfather.
Every character is beautifully delineated – this is one of the author’s strengths, in all his novels – and he describes both female and male characters with such a light touch, but so well crafted. Even the attendants in the asylum, who feature for one page, are described in two or three lines in such a way that you can picture them immediately.
It is difficult to explain what is so wonderful about this book. The Guardian reviewer said:
A Place Called Winter does not offer resolution, but it does offer hope that emotional truth and loyalty to that truth may be a way forward for Harry. He is an intensely sympathetic character in his struggles, his despair and the fundamental honesty that will never let him lie to himself for long. Harry Cane is one of many, the disappeared who were not wanted by their families or their societies and whose stories were long shrouded with shame. This fascinating novel is their elegy.
As you might have guessed, I give this book 5 stars.
Go, read it.