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A Girl in Winter [Paperback]

Philip Larkin
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
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Book Description

3 Mar 2005

Philip Larkin's second novel was first published in 1947. This story of Katherine Lind and Robin Fennel, of winter and summer, of war and peace, of exile and holidays, is memorable for its compassionate precision and for the uncommon and unmistakable distinction of its writing.

'A Girl in Winter is a beautifully constructed, funny and profoundly sad book.' Andrew Motion

'One of the finest and most sustained prose poems in the language.' John Bayley


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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber (3 Mar 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571225810
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571225811
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 123,607 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Philip Larkin was born in Coventry in 1922 and was educated at King Henry VIII School, Coventry, and St John's College, Oxford. As well as his volumes of poems, which include The Whitsun Weddings and High Windows, he wrote two novels, Jill and A Girl in Winter, and two books of collected journalism: All What Jazz: A Record Library, and Required Writing: Miscellaneous Prose. He worked as a librarian at the University of Hull from 1955 until his death in 1985. He was the best-loved poet of his generation, and the recipient of innumerable honours, including the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry, and the W. H. Smith Award.

Product Description

Review

"'A Girl in Winter is a beautifully constructed, funny and profoundly sad book.' Andrew Motion"

About the Author

Philip Larkin was born in Coventry in 1922 and was educated at King Henry VIII School, Coventry, and St John's College, Oxford. As well as his volumes of poems, which include The Whitsun Weddings and High Windows, he wrote two novels, Jill and A Girl in Winter, and two books of collected journalism: All What Jazz: A Record Library, and Required Writing: Miscellaneous Prose. He worked as a librarian at the University of Hull from 1955 until his death in 1985. He was the best-loved poet of his generation, and the recipient of innumerable honours, including the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry, and the WHSmith Award.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wintry charm 22 Nov 2006
Format:Paperback
The review below is actually for "Jill".

"A Girl In Winter" is Larkin's second and final novel, written whilst he was lonely in Wellington, Shropshire, working as a librarian. THis may account for the somewhat disconsolate feel of the novel; it is beautifully written but somewhat cold, as suggested by the title.

In the book, Katherine is working as a provincial librarian. She takes a colleague to the dentist and discovers a letter when she returns home saying that a man from her past will be visiting. The novel then flashes back, explaining how they met through a penfriend scheme at school, and how she was invited to stay one summer. We follow her visit with the Fennels during the summer, and then return to the present, where Katherine meets the young man, Robin, in rather dispiriting circumstances.

I found this book an exceptional read. Larkin's prose is exceptionally good, considering he write this when 21-22, and is highly sympbolic without being obtrusive. It aspires to being allegorical without losing sight of the plot or the characters, as perhaps Joyce's "Ulysses" does. Most of the plot concerns Katherine's various degree of self-deception, as she seeks to understand Robin, his sister Jane and the Fennel family as a whole. In the final section, Katherine's deceptions come to an end and she becomes, as Larkin was to later say, one of the less received. But this entails a painful recognition of the limitations of the self, and of the ability of others to please you.

I much prefer this novel to "Jill" because it has far richer, subtler prose and is less plainly semi-autobiographical. Larkin describes places with, as you'd exepct, great skill and vividness. "A Girl In Winter" is a real gem, an often-overlooked treasure of a novel.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Adds intrigue to the Larkin enigma. 9 July 2007
Format:Paperback
The first thing to say about this novel is the perfected beauty of its descriptions. Larkin himself viewed the novels as long poems of a sort, and these chapters of elegant prose back up that claim. Moreover, with so small an output, the book represents something of a booty to people searching for more of Larkin's effortless writing. Several chapters, made up of a page or so of scene-setting, evoke mediations like 'A slight relax of air' and others. Likewise during the more lengthy chapters there are always a store of lengthy descriptions that evoke place with an assured balance between objective and subjective perception. Remembering that Larkin was still in his early twenties at the time of writing, the stately opening of the novel, detailing a winter landscape, points beyond 'The North Ship' towards his mature poetry.

For this reason, anyone who likes Larkin's poetry - and particularly his lyrical poems such as 'Here' and 'The Trees' - will find plenty to like in here.

However, from a plot point of view lovers of fiction will frown on some of Larkin's mistakes. Even as a Larkin 'fan', there are plenty of errors in the novel that easily explain why the prose hasn't been afforded the same critical attention as the poetry. Despite the frequent brilliance of the writing (the tentative symbolism at the end of the novel is a fine example), there are enough flaws both in character construction and plot to weary or put off an experienced reader. For instance, the division of the plot into three parts rather crudely commands the material: certain episodes, such as Katherine's taking Miss Green to the dentist, take far too long.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Alien resurrection? 2 Aug 2010
By Bob Sherunkle TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
In contrast to the well-crafted "Jill", a long-time favourite of mine, Larkin's second and final novel is unsatisfying and inconclusive. The story centres around Katherine Lind, a European girl who stays with an English family in the 1930s and later moves to England, apparently to escape Nazi persecution, becoming a library assistant during the Second World War. The first and third parts of the story cover her life during the war, while the second, longest section describes her stay in England as a schoolgirl, and the strange, claustrophobic relationship between her and Robin and Jane, the two children of her hosts. The atmosphere of the two different periods is well portrayed; the 1930s country household put me in mind of a middle-class Brideshead, while the wartime section is strongly redolent of the austerity and pessimism of Patrick Hamilton's "Slaves of Solitude".

For most of the book, Katherine is emotionally stunted and introverted. The main issue, to use Orwell's test, is whether she "grows" as a character. Towards the end the narrator certainly claims this:
"She knew, now, that in most lives there had to come a break, when the past dropped away and the maturity it had enclosed for so long stood painfully upright".
I remain to be convinced.

I'm glad to have read the book, but I would not be in a hurry to re-read it. After the quality of effort in "Jill", it looks as if Larkin decided that poetry was more his forte, and I have to feel that he made the right decision.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Girl in Winter 14 July 2013
Format:Paperback
I thoroughly enjoyed Philip Larkin's 'A Girl in Winter' - I read it all in one go from beginning to end as I just couldn't put it down. As another reviewer has said, not much really happens, but that's part of the beauty of it. It's definitely a book to get you thinking - not much is given away (for example, the exact nationality of Katherine) but I think this is a nice touch; the title of the book is itself rather vague and undemonstrative. As you'd expect, the writing is superbly beautiful.

So, not for those who are looking for a fast-paced, plot-driven blockbuster - but if you like Larkin's poetry and want a thought-provoking and evocative read, I cannot recommend this highly enough!
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