Top positive review
3 people found this helpful
A Spell of Winter
on 19 September 2013
This haunting and evocative novel was the first Orange Prize Winner and set a high standard for future hopefuls. Helen Dunmore creates a world which is at once understandable and yet totally different. Rob and Catherine live in virtual isolation in the crumbling old house belonging to their grandfather. It is gradually revealed to us that their mother has left and is living abroad, while their father, unable to cope without her, has been admitted to a sanitorium. We see events through the eyes of Cathy - a young girl who so resembles her mother that her grandfather can hardly bear to look at her, while their governess, the boy hating Miss Gallagher, harbours an obsessive and unhealthy love for her. Only Kate, the no nonsense Irish servant, brings some kind of stability to the children.
As Cathy and Rob grow older, the outside world intrudes. Cathy has a suitor, in the form of a rich neighbour; while Rob has the beautiful Livvy - as light as Cathy is dark. Yet, Rob and Cathy are thrown together too much, with too many secrets to bind them together. This is a novel of forbidden love, family secrets and how Cathy gradually becomes a woman and learns to understand what drove her mother away. This is a quiet and thought provoking read, which really packs a punch. Helen Dunmore has long been one of my favourite authors and I enjoyed revisiting this early novel.