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When Nights Were Cold: A literary mystery [Hardcover]

Susanna Jones
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (71 customer reviews)
RRP: 12.99
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Book Description

1 Mar 2012

As Queen Victoria’s reign reaches its end, Grace Farringdon dreams of polar explorations and of escape from her stifling home with her protective parents and eccentric, agoraphobic sister.

But when Grace secretly applies to Candlin, a women’s college filled with intelligent, like-minded women, she finally feels her ambitions beginning to be take shape. There she forms an Antarctic Exploration Society with the gregarious suffragette Locke, the reserved and studious Hooper and the strange, enigmatic Parr, and before long the group are defying their times and their families by climbing the peaks of Snowdonia and planning an ambitious trip to the perilous Alps.

Fifteen years later, trapped in her Dulwich home, Grace is haunted by the terrible events that took place out on the mountains. She is the society’s only survivor and for years people have demanded the truth of what happened, the group’s horrible legacy a millstone around her neck. Now, as the eve of the Second World War approaches, Grace is finally ready to remember and to confess . . .

From one of the finest writers of the psychological thriller comes this beautifully woven, deeply unsettling historical novel; powerfully atmospheric, shivering with menace and reminiscent of the very best of Sarah Waters.


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Mantle (1 Mar 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 144720056X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1447200567
  • Product Dimensions: 14.4 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (71 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 599,196 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description

Review

‘Jones's fourth novel is an atmospheric, beautifully controlled account of intense female friendship and ambition. And it's also a gripping psychological thriller – the missing link, were one ever inclined to hunt for it, between Rosamund Lehmann's Dusty Answer and Joe Simpson's Touching the Void. Recommended’ Guardian

‘Superior psychological thriller . . . Jumping between the past and the present the reader gradually begins to realise that the picture is not so straightforward . . . Ultimately, however, When Nights Were Cold is a novel about a soul that has frozen over. Some years ago the husband and wife team Nicci French wrote an excellent novel called Killing Me Softly which also centred on events that happened far up on a mountain, away from civilisation, amid the ice and snow. This book is a worthy successor. Ice in veins and all that’ Daily Express

‘An unsettling tale of turn-of-the-century lady adventurers. Susanna Jones specialises in chilling tales with ambiguous narrators, somewhere between straightforward crime and psychological speculation . . . This all-female environment is vaguely unsettling, and Jones relishes its disquieting atmosphere . . . There is an air of hectic derangement to the story, a cackling foreboding; every figure appearing as a type – none more so than Grace, an arch dissembler. Right up to its tingling showdown on the Matterhorn, this claustrophobic, disturbing books excels’ Sunday Telegraph

‘A vivid, shivery tale of obsession and emancipation in Edwardian England . . . Eerily atmospheric, Jones' novel is a pitch perfect study of the volatile emotions that can transform friendships' Marie Claire

‘Grace Farringdon is that most interesting of fictional characters: the unreliable narrator . . . in a tense and compelling piece of storytelling, the author shows us the ultimate confrontation between these two women. A rich, rewarding read’ Sunday Express

About the Author

Susanna Jones grew up in Yorkshire and studied drama at London University. Her work has been translated into over twenty languages and has won the CWA John Creasey Dagger, a Betty Trask Award and the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize. She lives in Brighton.

Available from Susanna Jones: The Earthquake Bird, The Missing Person's Guide to Love


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By Roman Clodia TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Opening in the first years of the twentieth century, awkward, obsessive Grace dreams about exploring the Antarctic. In the present, Grace is confined to her family home, full of lodgers and ghosts - but the question of what is `real' and what only exists in Grace's mind haunts this intelligent and impressive novel.

This is a quiet book, built on interiority and subjectivity rather than big, bold dramatic events which do take place but which don't necessarily drive the narrative. I found this very atmospheric, redolent of the dreadful claustrophobic narrowness of women's lives in the pre-war years, despite the rise of feminism in the suffragette movement.

The tensions simmering between the four women, between Grace and her parents, Grace and her sister, the relationships between men and women are reproduced with subtle skill, and the question of what is `real' gradually takes over the narrative.

This reminds me of a (post) modern take on Virginia Woolf, with its play of repression and fantasies of liberation. There is something deeply ambiguous about the book which I liked a lot - is the world `outside' of the mountains ultimately a source of freedom for these women, or just another way of confining them within a deeply conservative, patriarchal system?
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Atmospheric writing 14 April 2013
By Nicola TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Grace Farringdon lives with her parents and older sister in turn of the 20th century London. She is stifled by them and lives for her play-acting with neighbour, Frank Black, when they each pretend to be a polar explorer. Grace is fascinated by the expeditions of the likes of Scott and Shackleton and wants to be just like them. She escapes home life to go to a women's college and forms the Antarctic Exploration Society with three friends. They climb mountains together and form alliances but we know from the beginning that something has gone wrong. As Grace looks back on those times the story unfolds slowly throughout the course of the book.

I loved this story. It's told in the first person and this enables Grace to tell the reader exactly what she is thinking and feeling. I had a strong sense of what it was like for her and her friends on the mountains and even her imagined stories of polar exploration were told so well that it became quite atmospheric. It certainly piqued my interest in such things, where before I had had little interest. The story has an element of the sinister about it and the writing is excellent. I'd highly recommend this book. It's reasonably short yet seems to have so much packed into it and is a very intriguing tale.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it 29 April 2014
By Welsh Annie TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
There was something about this book that drew me in, firstly from the description, then from the moment I started to read. It’s a fascinating story, on the surface an early century tale of two daughters endeavouring to kick against their over-protective Victorian parents and society’s expectations of young women, a wonderful tale, rich with atmosphere and historical detail, stiflingly claustrophobic. Grace’s father encourages her passion for exploration – following the polar expeditions through newspaper reports and games with counters and maps – with no expectation that it will be more than an academic interest. Her sister is an accomplished pianist, but gives up her hopes to study music following her family’s opposition – far better she should care for her parents and seek to make a good marriage.

Grace has a magnificent imagination – she recreates in her head the reality of heading for the pole with Shackleton (for whom she has a passion). Having seen her sister trapped at home, she is determined that the same will not happen to her, and we see her attending university and forging a new life and new friendships. Together with three strangely matched friends – Leonora with her actress mother and liberal upbringing, bookish Winifred and moneyed Cecily with her adventurer parents – Grace forms the Antarctic Exploration Society, and she has the opportunity to turn her dreams into reality.

It’s a wonderful adventure story with the most unlikely lead characters, with wonderful scenes in Snowdonia and the Alps, later overshadowed by great tragedy. Grace finally returns alone to the home she worked so hard to leave, the subject of some notoriety but still living largely in the world of her imagination.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gorgeous 13 April 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Loved this book. Stayed up late reading. Wonderfully paced and plotted.
The characters were all fascinating and well formed. Brilliant
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An engrossing read until the very last page 6 April 2013
Format:Paperback
This is an intelligent and atmospheric novel, well up to the high standard of Jones's previous books. It combines a young woman's story of adventure and self-discovery with the tension of a murder mystery, set against the backdrop of the changes and possibilities that the suffragette movement introduced into women's lives at the turn of the century. The story draws the reader into the tangled web that Grace's efforts to live an independent life inexorably lead her into, and the chilling conclusion does not disappoint. The finely written accounts of mountaineering expeditions may make you yearn for adventure, but the unhappy conclusions to those affairs in this book will probably make you grateful you stayed at home . . .
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Madness, Murder and Mountaineering
I disliked Jones's 'A Missing Person's Guide to Love' but decided to give this book a go due to the glowing reviews it received. It's certainly an arresting story. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Kate Hopkins
2.0 out of 5 stars Hard going
I really struggled to finish this book. Didn't really understand what was going on. Not at all gripping or thrilling.
Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
2.0 out of 5 stars less than the sum of its parts
Having bought this book to read on a long rail journey, I was in the position of a captive audience so stuck to this book in preference to not reading anything. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Ferry Felts
2.0 out of 5 stars quite odd...
....the same insanity that gradually crept into poor grace must have rubbed off on me and made me want to finish it. Sort of glad i did.
Published 6 months ago by TLK
1.0 out of 5 stars Slow Read!
Great service but the book was a little disappointing. I enjoyed the first book Water Lily so much and couldn't put it down but this one was a little disappointing.
Published 11 months ago by Jules
2.0 out of 5 stars Suitable Title!
I found this book hard to enjoy, none of the characters were likeable and all seemed decidedly odd. I did finish the book but only because it was a book club choice.
Published 12 months ago by Angela Dedman
2.0 out of 5 stars I failed to engage with this book.
This was a meandering reminiscence from an unlikeable character. The people in this book were either spineless wet lettuces who drifted off into madness/met sticky ends or they... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Bluey
2.0 out of 5 stars Poor characterisations
Had this as a book club choice. No-one enjoyed it so how can it be well reviewed by so many? The characters were uninteresting, the story weak and the ending very disappointing. Read more
Published 13 months ago by c couldridge
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
When Nights were cold started well, it was interesting to learn about women in this period of time, but the story did not grip me and the ending was disappointing.
Published 13 months ago by Saxon
3.0 out of 5 stars Promised much but didn't deliver.
this book had a promising start ,capturing the Edwardian period very well and stressing the difficulties that young, independently minded women had to endure. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Mrs. J. Haines
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