Book #32

A Spell of Winter by Helen Dunmore

Cathy and her brother, Rob, have forged a passionate refuge against the terror of loneliness and family secrets, but their sibling love becomes fraught with danger. As Catherine fights free of her dark present and haunting past, the spell of winter that has held her in its grasp begins to break.

This book was like a dream. Dunmore’s fluid style, her depictions of English countryside, and her oddly flawed characters all seem like things I have seen whilst sleeping. There’s a lazy quality here, something difficult to describe, but something which is nonetheless compelling and confusing all at once.

Family secrets, forbidden relationships, and existences bordering on isolation all contribute to feelings of claustrophobia and confinement. Our protagonist’s attempts to make sense of her life and understand her feelings of abandonment are filled with shame, guilt, and self-deprecation. It’s a sorrowful picture, and although I often struggled to empathise, I was still dragged under the melancholy veil as we both suffocated through this life.

Although I was expecting more plot, and more revelation, this is more a study of sadness or an exploration of family. The entire extent of their secrets never was revealed to me, and my nose for scandal was never fully rewarded. The scandal I did see, however, was enough to ensure my nose returned pointing firmly at my feet, and I’m sure my eyes and ears tried to close themselves at certain points also.

A very difficult book to explain, never mind review. Since I’ve now done both this week (apologies to my baffled friend who had to sit through the strange explanations), I’m ready to cast off this hallucinatory novel and remember it fondly as one of the odd little black sheep who sometimes wander onto my bookshelves with no discernible origin.