Customer Review

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Spellbinding Read, 1 Sep 2011
This review is from: A Spell of Winter (Paperback)
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 of their reclusive grandfather, his housekeeper the beautiful and mysterious Kate, and a strange and creepy local woman, Eunice Gallagher. As Catherine and Rob become more and more isolated in their grandfather's old house, they also become closer, eventually beginning an incestuous affair that has profound consequences for everyone. Will Catherine manage to escape and build a new life with art-loving George Bullivant? Or will her relationship with Rob damage her for good? Dunmore keeps us guessing right until the end of the book.

The great beauty of Dunmore's language throughout the novel reminds us that she was a poet before becoming a novelist. Her descriptions - of landscape, houses, paintings, food, clothes - are quite superb. I particularly enjoyed the scene where Catherine is taken round George Bullivant's house and sees his paintings, and some of the later scenes where Catherine ends up working the land during World War I. Even when Dunmore is describing disturbing happenings and emotions, her prose is still beautiful. Her characters are compelling as well, particularly Catherine, an intelligent and attractive girl who cannot fit into conventional society, Catherine's strange, wolfish grandfather, Kate the Irish maid, and George Bullivant, with his love of art and Italy. Dunmore also makes us well aware of Rob's attractiveness, though it's clear that he's a rather dangerous man, who doesn't do his sister any good at all. If I could change anything about the book, I would have liked to have learnt a bit more about Catherine's grandfather's life, and about her parents and why they separated. But in a way, it was almost more intriguing to keep some mystery, leaving the reader to fill in some gaps.

A wonderful, poetic novel and an example of how prose can be almost as successful as a good painting in capturing atmosphere. One of Dummore's best.
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