Review: A Place Called Winter

I think, basically, that if you haven’t read this book then you’re doing life wrong. In fact, if you haven’t read this book then what are you even doing right now? Don’t read this blog post: READ THIS BOOK. Seriously. Go. Go.

In case you can’t work it out for yourself, I cannot recommend A Place Called Winter highly enough. I loved it with a capital L O V E D. It’s just…it’s..well it’s a really well told story I guess. Basically, it’s what a good book should be. It’s wonderful and moving and raw and just…freaking excellent. It’s incredibly beautifully written and so atmospheric and its one of those books that sort of gets under your skin and stops there. It ripped my heart from my chest in the first chapter and then kept hold of it until the very last word. It’s fascinating and enthralling and ALL THE GOOD ADJECTIVES. ALL OF THEM.  If you visit this blog often (in which case I love you) then you know I could totally rant on for all of time about all that is good about this story and how I love Harry so hard it makes my chest tight but I don’t really want to do that. What I want to do is thrust this book into the hands of everyone I know and demand they read it right now. & I want to give Patrick Gale a really huge hug and say thanks, matey, for writing it. .

It’s about – because God knows you’re likely not going to read a book based on that paragraph alone – this guy called Harry, who in early 20th century England somehow finds himself married to a lady called Winnie, and father to their little girl Phyllis. Harry is quiet and stuttering and unassuming and utterly enchanting and for a while, all seems to be pretty okay. And then he meets someone, and he cheats on his wife and as often happens with these things, he gets found out. By his wife’s brother which you know: killer. Anyway, actions have consequences and Harry finds himself with little option but to leave everything he knows and loves behind and move to Canada, were he makes his home on a plot of land in a town called Winter and well, stuff happens: good stuff and bad stuff and sad stuff and beautiful stuff.

It’s another of those split narrative books – alternating between Henry’s time in the ‘therapeutic community’ he joins after leaving a mental asylum and the events that led to him being institutionalised in the first place –from his life before Winnie, to his marriage, his affair, his moving to Winter and beyond. It’s stunning. It’s exceptionally well researched (and is based on the story of Gale’s great-grandfather. Right in the feels people, good gracious.)
The whole thing is a really fascinating look at human nature and at treatments for mental illness – and what constitutes mental illness in the first place -  and the views on homosexuality in the early 20th century. It was hard and heartbreaking but it was also fascinating you know? Besides which, Gale’s prose is glorious – you’ll be captivated by his descriptions alone. 

I'm not even above begging here: please, please read this book.