A Spell of Winter by Helen Dunmore

A Spell of Winter cover

A Spell of Winter by Helen Dunmore won the 1996 Orange Prize and it is a great read if at times a bit shuddersome for any woman with a brother anyway.

Catherine and her brother Rob live in the country in a large dilapidated old house which belongs to their grandfather. Money is scarce now but the family had been wealthy in the past. Their mother has abandoned them and they have no contact with her, their father is in a sanatorium as a long-term patient. Kate and Eileen look after the children with Kate in particular being more like a surrogate mother to Catherine.

Their grandfather keeps them in the dark about both their parents. Why has the mother abandoned her children? There’s a ghastly character called Miss Gallagher who is supposed to be teaching the children but she all but ignores Rob whilst fawning on Catherine who despises her.

Time passes and a wealthy next-door neighbour shows an interest in Catherine and Rob isn’t happy about that at all, which leads him to do something unspeakable.

This book is a bit like Wuthering Heights with a hint of Jane Austen. There’s a lot more to the story than I’ve written about, I like to be quite sketchy about plots.

The Guardian said of Helen Dunmore: An electrifying and original talent, a writer whose style is characterized by a lyrical dreamy intensity.

6 thoughts on “A Spell of Winter by Helen Dunmore

  1. I picked this one up at the library about four or five years ago and read several chapters. Whatever was going on for me at the time, it felt a little too dark, so I returned it with the promise to revisit it later when I might be in a brighter mood. I love Dunmore’s writing, as you know, so I think I will be getting to it eventually.

    • Judith,
      Well you are a woman with a brother so parts of the story may have been too uncomfortable for you, I must admit I was surprised and not too happy with the incest aspect of it as it’s just unimaginable to me. No doubt such things happen though and her writing is very good.

  2. This Dunmore title is a new one to me. Definitely one for me to consider when the year starts to draw in again. (Right now I’m enjoying the evenings drawing out!)

  3. I’ve read Helen Dunmore’s last three books and enjoyed them all, but I haven’t had a chance to explore her earlier work yet. This sounds great but people keep recommending The Siege to me, so I should probably read that one first!

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