Book Review: A Place Called Winter by Patrick Gale

A Place Called Winter

If asked about my favourite authors, and I sometimes am! I would without hesitation include Patrick Gale in the list.  He is an author I came to some years ago following the recommendation of a friend.  I have continued to regularly enjoy his novels.  ‘A  Place Called Winter’ published last year.  I have had it a while but had been saving it for some blissful uninterrupted holiday reading.  Patrick Gale is a favourite holiday companion of mine.

‘A Place Called Winter’  takes place  primarily in the Canadian prairies, at the turn of the century.  This in itself is a little unusual for Mr Gale.  Many of his books are set in Cornwall and usually in the present or very recent past.

This book stemmed from discoveries Gale made about his own Great Grandfather who was one of many Englishmen who took up the opportunity to claim 160 acres of free land in Canada.  The more he discovered the more he realised things weren’t as they first seemed.  his is the story of Harry Cane.  A respectable English man forced to leave his gentile life in the London suburbs.  An illicit affair forces him to walk away from  his wife and child, and  travel to a town called Winter in the barren harsh landscape of Canada.

Gale weaves a tale of tense emotion heavily laced with warmth and kindness throughout this story of self-discovery.  Harry Kane endures war, abuse, physical hardship and abject misery as he discovers who he really is, what he can achieve and what is most important to him.  But he also discovers joyous love; loyal, generous friendship and the pure pleasure of living off and working the land as he builds a life for himself in the remote town Winter.  The landscape is so important in this story.  It is harsh, undiscovered, bitterly cold and unforgiving.  Everything about it and Gales understanding of it enhances this story and Gale portrays it brilliantly.

Knowing that this story is loosely based on a real life family mystery makes it absolutely fascinating.  The personal nature of the story and the depth of feeling really comes through the character of Harry Cane, and it would be impossible to read this and not care. I read this book a few weeks ago but writing this review has made me want to pick it up again and lose myself in this unforgiving land and its resourceful inhabitants.  This novel is truly fabulous. Do get your hands-on a copy if you can.

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