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A Girl in Winter Paperback – 3 Mar 2005

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A Girl in Winter + Jill + Required Writing: Miscellaneous Pieces 1955-1982: Miscellaneous Pieces, 1955-82
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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: 12.7 x 1.7 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 144,240 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


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

Book Description

A Girl in Winter by Philip Larkin is the poet's second novel, memorable for its compassionate precision and for the unmistakable distinction of its writing.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Mike Cormack on 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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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Bob Sherunkle VINE VOICE on 2 Aug. 2010
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By D. Sedgwick on 19 Feb. 2013
Format: Paperback
The three parts to this novel feel rather like separate short stories rather than part of a coherent longer work and that's one of the chief weaknesses in this curious book. The parts don't really make a stronger whole, which is what a great work would have achieved.

Nevertheless there is enough in the three individual strands to ponder over. The most successful part for me was part three where Robin and Katherine meet in a rather gloomy present. The other parts are not quite as successful. Certainly the first part in which we are introduced to Katherine is rather elongated and somewhat repetitive. Indeed the novel as a whole feels like a writer attempting to find a voice - I think Larkin made the right choice to stick with poetry.

As a novelist Larkin is only able to scratch the surface with his characters - all the characters in this book are rather unattractive and a little one-dimensional. However, read as a critique of (English) middle class frigidity and manners, the book is rather more successful. As a novel of unfulfilled love it is much less successful. I don't think Larkin is a natural storyteller although there are some excellent individual passages as might be expected.

I really wanted to know more about Katherine - I wanted to see another side to her, but all we are presented with is an alienated, somewhat cold character with whom it is hard too sympathise. The same with Robin and Jane - they are seemingly middle class archetypes - fine for an allegorical or satirical purpose but I wanted more flesh.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A.E Cattley on 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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