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A Spell of Winter [Audiobook, Unabridged] [Audio CD]

Helen Dunmore , Janet Maw
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
RRP: 63.67
Price: 61.01 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

29 Feb 2000

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' Guardian

Helen 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.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product details

  • Audio CD
  • Publisher: ISIS Audio Books; Unabridged edition (29 Feb 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0753107163
  • ISBN-13: 978-0753107164
  • Product Dimensions: 18.2 x 16.1 x 3.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 7,102,843 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


A marvellous novel about forbidden passions (Daily Mail)

An intensely gripping book...written so seductively that some passages sing out from the page, like music for the eyes (Sunday Times)

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 (Guardian) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From the Back Cover

'A marvellous novel about forbidden passions' Daily Mail

'An intensely gripping book...written so seductively that some passages
sing out from the page, like music for the eyes' Sunday Times

'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' Guardian --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
42 of 43 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A lyrical and unjudgemental morality tale 15 Jun 2000
By A Customer
A haunting evocation of young souls left to develop alone in a large house full of emotional and financial disintegration. A brother and sister's isolation and loneliness lends their love for each other a new and dangerous bent. Without guidance or boundaries they struggle with the moral and physical implications before one (perhaps) finds redemption and hope.
This novel confronts parental abandonment, mental illness, incest, love and the tragedy of war with the lightest and most effective touch. The natural world and a strongly developed host of supporting characters provide a strong framework for a deeply personal tale.
At times the insights into a young girl's soul (it is written in the first person)seem almost pornographic in their intimacy but they render this work compelling.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Darkly haunting 15 Jun 2007
By Suzie
This is a dark, disturbing novel, but strangely haunting. I read it when it was first published, and re-read it more recently. It is my favourite Helen Dunmore, and certainly, in my opinion, her most poetic, the language sometimes so striking that I re-read whole chunks, savouring the unexpected use of words, descriptions that make me gasp with admiration. Phrases such as, 'Her voice poured like treacle over the polished floor,' and, 'The corridor seemed to have swallowed up our voices too,' are breathtaking, but it is the overall impression of the coldness of winter, Catherine's season, that permeates the whole story. 'This morning the ice on my basin of water is so thick I can not break it. The windows stare back at me, blind with frost.'

Helen Dunmore evokes all the senses to the full, so much so that you almost feel the scratchy roughness of Rob's jacket against your skin, and suffer the claustrophobic intensity of Miss Gallagher's interest in Catherine, the young narrator. You instinctively dislike Miss Gallagher, an impression underlined by the writing: 'Her bicycle was by the front steps. Upright, ugly and insistent.' And, 'The coat flopped around her, long and lean as a washed-out banana.'

Kate, the Irish maid, is the one warm gleam in the children's otherwise wintry lives, but apart from Kate they have only each other. The book, set around the first world war, is an exploration of their relationship and its development as they grow up. The story might have its darker aspects but I loved it. I would urge anyone interested in the beauty of the English language to read it and savour every word.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Beautiful Read 15 Jun 2002
The is a well contructed love story told in a graceful and captivating style. The author has been quite brave, yet obviously careful, in her portrayal of an intense sibling relationship turned too far inward to escape the youthful urges of sexuality. The individual's sense of seclusion during harsh and powerful winters is expertly conveyed. However, if your sense of morality is easily threatened, read something else; because, this is a complicated work that teases out taboos in a way in which the reader will never forget.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful and haunting... 11 Jan 2007
This author's novels win prizes for good reason. There's not a part of this novel that appears out of place. Each and every word fits beautifully into an intricately woven and sorrowfully haunting tale.

A brother and sister are left parentless at an early age. They are brought up in a very sheltered way by a troubled grandfather, and the housemaid (not much older than themselves), in a large and deteriorating country manor. Set around the time of the First World War, this duo are caught up in a period of social hierarchy with high societal moral values. As a result, they find out early on that they have to work together to keep family secrets deeply hidden in the past. Effectively isolated from those around them, they increasingly turn to one another for comfort and their relationship develops into something more...

Take the time to get involved as a reader, right from the very start, and you will be rewarded with an intensely involved story of discovering love and adulthood, learning right and wrong. At times disturbing, challenging the boundaries of sibling love, the simple naivety of the leading character and story-teller, Catherine, encourages an empathetic understanding and sympathy for her plight. Although dark and moving, a glimmer of sunshine and redemption can be found towards the end.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A curate's egg, excellent in parts. 10 July 2013
This fin de siècle, first person, novel, is at its Austenesque heart a story of decay, hope and incestuous love.
Cathy lives in a large run down country house with her Grandfather, known locally as `the man from nowhere'. As Cathy looks back on past events in her life we encounter past inhabitants of the house; her brother Rob, the Irish housekeeper Kate, the mysterious Eileen and numerous servants employed from the local village.
Cathy and Rob's mother, who was a baby when she arrived with Cathy's grandfather at the country house, left when Cathy and Rob were very young. Their father has also `abandoned' them due to his mental illness and is being treated at a sanatorium. Their grandfather has retreated into his study from which he very rarely emerges and so Rob and Cathy are largely left to their own devices apart from the able assistance and love of their housekeeper and friend, Kate.
Secrets and lies are cemented into the very brickwork and foundation of the house and its real and metaphysical decay begins to expose those two fragile elements to householders and visitors alike. These two sides of the same coin seep and bleed through the novel and their exposure is being hurried by the likes of Ms Eunice Gallagher, Cathy and Rob's former tutor and governess.
This 1996 winner of The Orange Prize for Fiction is like the curate's egg, excellent in parts. Helen Dunmore's characters are wonderfully written. As you read through the novel it feels like each line is creating the skin and bone and organs of each character while each chapter is pumping blood through their perfectly, forming bodies. By the end of A Spell of Winter, one feels that one has not only read about the characters but has actually met them.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Spell of winter casts a spell
Beautifully written. Strong yet sensitive absorbing and poignant Helen dunmore creates another new compelling reality for her reader. Unmissable unputdownable
Published 2 months ago by Paula
2.0 out of 5 stars Very Slow
Generally love Helen Dunmore's books especially The Siege, The Lie and The Greatcoat but this one failed to draw me in and I gave up after a few chapters.
Published 4 months ago by Eileen A McBain
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written
This is the second book which I have read by Helen Dunmore and like The Siege it is unlikely to contain things which have been experienced directly by the writer. Read more
Published 6 months ago by John Leay
5.0 out of 5 stars A Spell of Winter
This haunting and evocative novel was the first Orange Prize Winner and set a high standard for future hopefuls. Read more
Published 11 months ago by S Riaz
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous writing
This is a beautifully written novel. Helen's use of language is exquisite.
I could not put this book down and will undoubtedly read it again. Wonderful!
Published 18 months ago by Krissie
3.0 out of 5 stars Completely Forgettable!
I like to keep track of the Orange prize winners when I've read them. I logged on to Amazon to remind myself of this book, which I only read just over a year ago, and I've found... Read more
Published on 16 Aug 2012 by hshm
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written
Well I have to hand it to Dunmore; she is not an author who will shy away from difficult or disturbing subjects. Read more
Published on 29 Nov 2011 by J. Willis
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written
I love Helen Dunmore's writing, and I loved this book. I read it about nine months ago and the story hasn't left me....that's surely the sign of a successful novel. Read more
Published on 14 Oct 2011 by Gerry C
5.0 out of 5 stars A Spellbinding Read
An arresting, sometimes disturbing and always beautifully-written tale of a brother and sister who, abandoned by their mother, and with a mentally-ill father, are left to the care... Read more
Published on 1 Sep 2011 by Kate Hopkins
4.0 out of 5 stars A spell of Winter - Helen Dunmore
If you are looking for a well written story, this book is for you. It is a consuming tale of emotional deprivation with some frightening consequences in a time just before the... Read more
Published on 15 Aug 2011 by Mrs. Jill Brownlow
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