A Place Called Winter – Patrick Gale – Review

Tinder Press

Publication Day – 24 March 2015 (Hardback)


“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.”

5 of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book from the publisher and this is my honest opinion of the book.

Harry Crane is born into a life of privilege. The eldest son of a wealthy man, he is left motherless at a young age. With his father often absent, he finds the love he seeks from his younger brother. Harry provides the foundation Jack needs, and Jack provides Harry a window to the outside world, a lifeline for the extremely shy young man. Almost unconsciously aware of his wealth, but well aware of the lack of direction his life takes, he soon finds himself married. A daughter soon follows. Then he falls in love with the wrong person. Forced to give up his life in England, Harry seizes on the chance to farm land in Canada. Harry’s journey brings him into contact with people who will change his life irrevocably. Sometimes it takes a change of pace and a change of place to find yourself. For Harry Cane that place is A Place Called Winter.

Sometimes I review a book I’ve read and think ‘Am I being too harsh with my ratings? Should this book be rated higher? Why do lots of people often give 5 stars and I rarely do?’ Then I read a book like this and realise why. I read many books. Some ok, some good and others great. But what can I do to show that I think a book is truly outstanding, one that stays with you long after the final page has been turned? One that you wish would not end, just so you could stay with the characters a little longer. That’s when I realise why I rarely give 5 stars. Because I need to save them for such a book as this, and A Place Called Winter is such a book.

Not one word is wasted. Literally. Each page holds something to savour. I didn’t care if the narrative was at a crucial juncture or simply giving a glimpse into farming in turn of the century Canada. Each page was fascinating. I found myself completely absorbed in Harry’s world from first page to last.

Patrick Gale’s writing is vivid and engaging. My heart wept and soared as Harry’s did. I could picture each scene vividly. I was on the sea voyage with Harry, tilling the fields and building his home with him. I was willing him to see the dangers ahead. I have only read one other book by Patrick Gale; Notes on an Exhibition. Though a completely different story to this, what I brought away from that was Gale’s skill in characterisation. That skill is equally evident in A Place Called Winter. Each character was vividly portrayed. Those I loved, I did so with a passion, those I hated equally so.

If I find a book I am passionate about I will happily suggest it to anyone looking for a book in that genre. Rarely do I find a book I would recommend to anyone regardless of genre. This is one of those books. It is saga, romance, historical fiction and a story of self-discovery all tied up in one outstanding novel. There’s even a hint of crime in there.

What makes this story all the more fascinating is that it is loosely based on real characters. This makes the story all the more poignant and the characters all the more real.

Having used up my superlative allowance I will end the review here.

A book to submerse yourself in and to finish slightly dazed to realise you are back in the real world. A book I will re-read again and soon. If you take a chance and read it and like it half as much as I do, you’ll love it.

9 Comments Add yours

  1. MarinaSofia says:

    I’ve heard such good things about this one. To be honest, I read ‘Notes on an Exhibition’ some years ago and was not blown away by it, so I haven’t read any other of his novels. But you would advise me to give this one a go, by the sounds of it!


    1. janetemson says:

      I was exactly the same as you with Notes on an Exhibition. Glad I took a chance on A Place Called Winter. I’d recommend giving it a go. I just hope it lives up to my hype 🙂


  2. I read Notes on an Exhibition a few years ago and had been looking at this one but resisting the urge to get a copy, now I’ve read your review the willpower is melting away!


    1. janetemson says:

      Do read it if you can, and let me know what you think 🙂


  3. I loved this book. I’m the same as you with my 5 star reviews and this certainly deserved it.


    1. janetemson says:

      It is one of the rare ones that lives up to the hype 🙂


  4. Loved this book – so much I’ve now read it three times!


    1. janetemson says:

      Oh I don’t blame you, its glorious 🙂


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