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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sunday afternoon in an armchair reading, 3 Nov 2010
By 
This review is from: The Winds of Heaven (Paperback)
Lovely, undemanding reading for a Sunday afternoon when you can't be bothered going out for a walk. As a previous reviewer has pointed out, this is a King Lear story about a mother with three daughters, set in the early 1950s. Louise has been left penniless after the death of her overbearing husband, which leaves her dependent on these daughters for everything, a roof over her head, a busfare into town, a new dress. She is passed from one to another like an unwanted parcel, spending two months a year with each of them, only to be billeted for the winter months on a friend who runs a chaotic seaside hotel. One daughter is socially ambitious, a brittle, unsympathetic woman with disappointments of her own; the middle daughter is an aspiring actress, in love with a married man; the youngest is a slattern, married to a man who is socially beneath her (but he is the only one who shows any understanding to her mother). None of the daughters is exactly unkind; but they make Louise feel like the burden that she undoubtedly is. (In the early 1950s, when being 50 was most certainly not the new 30, it is taken for granted that a middle-aged, middle-class woman is too old and useless to get a job or be self-supporting.) Louise's only friend is a fat man who sells beds in a department store on Oxford Street; she knows that her daughters would dismiss him as 'common.'
I wallowed in this book for a whole weekend, though the melodramatic ending is a disappointment. See that it's soon to be republished by Persephone Books and it's definitely one of those old-fashioned titles they describe as 'hot water bottle' novels. Much better reading, I thought, than their other Monica Dickens title, Mariana. Although perhaps it's an age thing; Mariana is a girls' book, The Winds of Heaven is middle-aged escapism.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Winds of Heaven, 17 Oct 2010
This review is from: Winds of Heaven (Hardcover)
"When the winds of heaven blow, men are inclined to throw back their heads like horses, and stride ruggedly into the gusts, pretending to be much healthier than they really are; but women tend to creep about, shrunk into their clothes and clutching miserably at their hats and hair."

Louise Bickford had felt the force of the wind of heaven. In her early fifties in the early fifties, she found herself widowed, penniless and homeless after the death of her brutish husband.

Her daughters, three very different women, knew that they had to their duty and so she spent part of the year with each and the winter months in a run-down hotel owned by an old school friend. It's a far from ideal arrangement, but there seems to be no alternative. Louise's suggestion that she earn a living is swiftly dismissed by her family. She is unskilled and it is not what women of her class do. And so she tries to help out, to be unobtrusive, but sadly it is unappreciated. Louise' daughters are wrapped up in their own lives their own concerns and give not one thought to how their mother might feel, what she might want.

The lack of understanding, the lack of communication, is horrible but it is utterly believable. That made this an uncomfortable read at times, but it was always compelling. And if Louise could hold on then so could I. She finds support from two of the more sensitive members of her family. And from a salesman who become a friend after a chance encounter in a cafe.

Monica Dickens writes such lovely prose and she is a fine storyteller. Characters, settings, and scenarios are all utterly believable. And she picks up exactly the right details to bring the story to life, to make it utterly real.

Eventually, inevitably arrangements break down and Louise finds herself in trouble ...

More than that I am not going to say.

Persephone Books has made a very fine selection for its list.

This is a book to engage both hearts and minds. The world may have changed since the fifties, but this is still a book with a lot to say about relationships and social conventions.

Yes, a fine novel that stands the test of time.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A book for mothers and daughters, 31 Oct 2010
By 
bookelephant (London) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Winds of Heaven (Paperback)
There is much in Monica Dickens' "Winds of Heaven" to enjoy. The overall story of whether fragile Louise - left nearly penniless after the death of her profoundly unsatisfactory husband - will escape from the unwilling charity of her ill assorted daughters and find belatedly some happiness of her own is compelling and touching. So too are the wittily drawn pictures of the daughters' own very different lives - suburban yummy mummy, edgy London actress and unwilling farmer's wife, each is conjured up with clarity and perception. Each we see has a life full of a jumble of good things (often unregarded) and unhappinesses (which seem to the reader more fully to define their lives than the good things).
But for me the most telling aspect is the constant evocation of that most difficult and binding web between mother and children. Dickens unsparingly shows us how the one thing the daughters have in common is their retention of their childish egoism vis a vis their mother, their failure to treat her with the consideration they would probably offer to their friends and their perception of her more as problem than person. A thought likely to make many daughters wince uncomfortably. And from the other side the sad helplessness of the mother's realisation that however much she has cared and hoped for her children their lives will not turn out to be perfect, as she had wished them to be, and that there is so very little she can now do ...
So, a good and perceptive read - and far happier in tone than I have made it sound!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The story of a woman and her daughters, 5 Sep 2008
This review is from: The Winds of Heaven (Hardcover)
It's a bit like King Lear, except that the central character is a woman - Louise. She's in her early 50s. When her husband dies, she finds he has left her almost nothing to live on and nowhere to live. So she divides her time between her three daughters. This means we move between confusingly different milieux: commuter belt "countryside" where pushy parents compete viciously through their children, the bohemian theatre world, and an isolated farm. All three girls have their points, but are careless and dismissive of Louise in different ways. She bonds with her eldest granddaughter, though, and one day she meets a man in a cafe who turns out to work in a big London department store, selling bedroom furniture. A boyfriend who sells beds? Her daughters would have a fit! It's a wonderful story, and one of Dickens' best.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very enjoyable, 16 Dec 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: Winds of Heaven (Hardcover)
Anybody who has cared for elderly relatives will feel a connection with this book.
Due to her late husband running up considerable debt a now homeless widow is forced to live with her 3 very different daughters in consequetive visits. Each not knowing quite what to do with her. The book looks into the lives of the 4 different women with the widow beginning a friendship with a trashy book novelist and there are plenty of interesting twists and turns in the story.
It does actually has a feel good ending, but really makes you think about the changing relationship of mother and child as time progresses.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sunday afternoon in an armchair reading, 26 April 2010
By 
This review is from: The Winds of Heaven (Hardcover)
Lovely, undemanding reading for a Sunday afternoon when you can't be bothered going out for a walk. As a previous reviewer has pointed out, this is a King Lear story about a mother with three daughters, set in the early 1950s. Louise has been left penniless after the death of her overbearing husband, which leaves her dependent on these daughters for everything, a roof over her head, a busfare into town, a new dress. She is passed from one to another like an unwanted parcel, spending two months a year with each of them, only to be billeted for the winter months on a friend who runs a chaotic seaside hotel. One daughter is socially ambitious, a brittle, unsympathetic woman with disappointments of her own; the middle daughter is an aspiring actress, in love with a married man; the youngest is a slattern, married to a man who is socially beneath her (but he is the only one who shows any understanding to her mother). None of the daughters is exactly unkind; but they make Louise feel like the burden that she undoubtedly is. (In the early 1950s, when being 50 was most certainly not the new 30, it is taken for granted that a middle-aged, middle-class woman is too old and useless to get a job or be self-supporting.) Louise's only friend is a fat man who sells beds in a department store on Oxford Street; she knows that her daughters would dismiss him as 'common.'
I wallowed in this book for a whole weekend, though the melodramatic ending is a disappointment. See that it's soon to be republished by Persephone Books and it's definitely one of those old-fashioned titles they describe as 'hot water bottle' novels. Much better reading, I thought, than their other Monica Dickens title, Mariana. Although perhaps it's an age thing; Mariana is a girls' book, The Winds of Heaven is middle-aged escapism.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A lovely book, 1 Nov 2010
This review is from: The Winds of Heaven (Paperback)
Perceptive, funny, tragic, puzzling... it is full of detail culled from a lifetime of observing people (very like her forebear Charles). It's time to reappraise Monica Dickens. She's not just a posh bird who wrote about cooking and nursing (how nice for you, dear). She was a sharp novelist with a warm social conscience. Must run in the family. No one has mentioned the role of department stores in the plot, or beds, or a writer of pulp fiction, or the younger generation... read on.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A favourite author of my wife., 6 Mar 2012
By 
Rowland G. Greer (Chelmsford.UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Winds of Heaven (Paperback)
She has read it before but gets a lot of enjoyment from this author.The condition of the book was very good as was the speed at which it was delivered after ordering it RGG
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Heavens Winds, 8 Dec 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Winds of Heaven (Paperback)
This was bought as a gift and was gratefully received. As yet it has not been fully read but thumbing through it was what was expected.
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Present Well Received, 26 Sep 2012
By 
hypnobear (north yorkshire) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Winds of Heaven (Paperback)
I have not read this book as it was bought as a present but my mother tells me it was super, and she enjoyed it very much. I am a firm fan of the Persephone Press, and feel that is probably recomendation enough!
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The Winds of Heaven
The Winds of Heaven by A. S. Byatt (Paperback - 21 Oct 2010)
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