Thursday, 2 April 2015

Book Review - A Place Called Winter by Patrick Gale

A Place Called Winter
A Place Called Winter by Patrick Gale
Published: 24th March 2015
Publisher: Tinder Press
Page: 352
Available in Hardback and on Kindle
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.
A Place Called Winter follows Harry Kane on his journey from high society in Edwardian England to the remote prairie outback of uninhabited Canada in a small settlement called Winter. When we first meet Harry he is in a psychiatric unit in Bethel, as the story develops we learn the events which unfolded for him to end up there.
Harry is the eldest son of a wealthy businessman who spends his days lazing about in gentlemen’s clubs. After his father’s death he is left with a substantial fortune and eventually finds himself a respectable wife Winnifred Wells. All would have been well for Harry except an ill-fated investment sees him living back in his mother in laws house. Feeling trapped Harry gives into a temptation burning inside him. After his illicit affair is unearthed by his brother in law he has no option but to move away and save the family from shame. By chance Harry stumbles on an advertisement for labourers in Canada willing to build new homesteads in the remote prairies. Taking his chances Harry sets off for Canada and the place called Winter.
To be completely honest it wasn’t until I was about half way through this book that I fell for its charms. During the first half of the book very little happens and Harry himself was just not a character I could feel anything for. He came across as socially awkward and seemed to believe he was incapable of doing anything useful with his time other than frequenting clubs and horse-riding. The boat journey sees Harry changing and becoming determined to do something with his life, if only to compensate for the shame he bought his wife. I liked this stronger, more determined Harry and was glad when he was able to finally find some inner peace.
The thing I enjoyed most about this book was the writing, it just flowed beautifully and gave such a vivid description of life in Canada, Patrick Gale has such a talent for creating a sense of place that I was totally mesmerised by the end. I know he has written some previous novels, so hopefully I will get a chance to read these someday.
This is a story of Harry’s journey, not just from England to Canada but from being a seemingly lost and awkward individual to someone who is confident and has finally found his place within society. It’s a book which made me laugh and cry and one which I’ll still be thinking about for a long time.
I’m giving this book 4/5, mainly because it took me a while to get into it and also I don’t think I would read it again myself. I do think it is definitely a book worth picking up and reading as it has a way of capturing your heart.
I would like to thank Georgina at Headline for sending me a copy to review.

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