A Spell of Winter, Paperback Book
2 out of 5 (1 rating)


Bestselling author Helen Dunmore's third novel, A Spell of Winter won the 1996 Orange Prize.Catherine and her brother, Rob, don't know why they have been abandoned by their parents.

Incarcerated in the enormous country house of their grandfather - 'the man from nowhere' - they create a refuge against their family's dark secrets, and against the outside world as it moves towards the First World War.

As time passes, their sibling love deepens and crosses into forbidden territory.

But they are not as alone in the house as they believe . . . 'A marvellous novel about forbidden passions and the terrible consequences of thwarted love.

Dunmore is one of the finest English writers' Daily Mail'A hugely involving story which often stops you in your tracks with the beauty of its writing' Observer'An electrifying and original talent, a writer whose style is characterized by a lyrical, dreamy intensity' GuardianHelen Dunmore has published eleven novels with Penguin: Zennor in Darkness , which won the McKitterick Prize; Burning Bright; A Spell of Winter, which won the Orange Prize; Talking to the Dead ; Your Blue-Eyed Boy; With Your Crooked Heart; The Siege, which was shortlisted for the 2001 Whitbread Novel of the Year Award and for the Orange Prize for Fiction 2002; Mourning Ruby; House of Orphan; Counting the Stars and The Betrayal, which was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2010.

She is also a poet, children's novelist and short-story writer.


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I can't figure out how to describe this book. Perhaps the publisher had the same problem, because the dust jacket synopsis is a lie. It talks about Catherine and Rob abandoned by their parents, incarcerated at their Grandfather's house, not alone as they believe. They aren't incarcerated, they know what happened to their parents and they never believe they're alone. I don't understand the marketing technique employed here, except that I was fascinated by the synopsis so I bought the book even though the true premise wouldn't interest me as much.This is not the author's fault. The writing is skilled and complex and the protagonist, Catherine, is a fascinating person who is redeemed by some of her final choices even if her earlier actions are shocking. But although the initial hook is brilliant ("I saw an arm fall off a man once,") and the middle section involving her worrying relationship with her brother is interesting, there are heavy sections of description at the beginning and end of the book where time speeds up and we're very distant from the characters. This weighs the start and end of the story and made it sort of boring.

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