17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: A Girl in Winter (Paperback)
The review below is actually for "Jill".
"A Girl In Winter" is Larkin's second and final novel, written whilst he was lonely in Wellington, Shropshire, working as a librarian. THis may account for the somewhat disconsolate feel of the novel; it is beautifully written but somewhat cold, as suggested by the title.
In the book, Katherine is working as a provincial librarian. She takes a colleague to the dentist and discovers a letter when she returns home saying that a man from her past will be visiting. The novel then flashes back, explaining how they met through a penfriend scheme at school, and how she was invited to stay one summer. We follow her visit with the Fennels during the summer, and then return to the present, where Katherine meets the young man, Robin, in rather dispiriting circumstances.
I found this book an exceptional read. Larkin's prose is exceptionally good, considering he write this when 21-22, and is highly sympbolic without being obtrusive. It aspires to being allegorical without losing sight of the plot or the characters, as perhaps Joyce's "Ulysses" does. Most of the plot concerns Katherine's various degree of self-deception, as she seeks to understand Robin, his sister Jane and the Fennel family as a whole. In the final section, Katherine's deceptions come to an end and she becomes, as Larkin was to later say, one of the less received. But this entails a painful recognition of the limitations of the self, and of the ability of others to please you.
I much prefer this novel to "Jill" because it has far richer, subtler prose and is less plainly semi-autobiographical. Larkin describes places with, as you'd exepct, great skill and vividness. "A Girl In Winter" is a real gem, an often-overlooked treasure of a novel.