8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: A Girl in Winter (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.