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A Spell of Winter Paperback – 5 Sep 1996

4.0 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews

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Paperback, 5 Sep 1996
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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd; New edition edition (5 Sept. 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140248811
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140248814
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 2.2 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,032,309 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

A marvellous novel about forbidden passions (Daily Mail)

An intensely gripping book...written so seductively that some passages sing out from the page, like music for the eyes (Sunday Times)

A hugely involving story which often stops you in your tracks with the beauty of its writing (Observer)

An electrifying and original talent, a writer whose style is characterized by a lyrical, dreamy intensity (Guardian) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From the Back Cover

'A marvellous novel about forbidden passions' Daily Mail

'An intensely gripping book...written so seductively that some passages
sing out from the page, like music for the eyes' Sunday Times

'A hugely involving story which often stops you in your tracks with the
beauty of its writing' Observer

'An electrifying and original talent, a writer whose style is characterized
by a lyrical, dreamy intensity' Guardian --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

See all Product Description

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
A haunting evocation of young souls left to develop alone in a large house full of emotional and financial disintegration. A brother and sister's isolation and loneliness lends their love for each other a new and dangerous bent. Without guidance or boundaries they struggle with the moral and physical implications before one (perhaps) finds redemption and hope.
This novel confronts parental abandonment, mental illness, incest, love and the tragedy of war with the lightest and most effective touch. The natural world and a strongly developed host of supporting characters provide a strong framework for a deeply personal tale.
At times the insights into a young girl's soul (it is written in the first person)seem almost pornographic in their intimacy but they render this work compelling.
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Format: Paperback
This is a dark, disturbing novel, but strangely haunting. I read it when it was first published, and re-read it more recently. It is my favourite Helen Dunmore, and certainly, in my opinion, her most poetic, the language sometimes so striking that I re-read whole chunks, savouring the unexpected use of words, descriptions that make me gasp with admiration. Phrases such as, 'Her voice poured like treacle over the polished floor,' and, 'The corridor seemed to have swallowed up our voices too,' are breathtaking, but it is the overall impression of the coldness of winter, Catherine's season, that permeates the whole story. 'This morning the ice on my basin of water is so thick I can not break it. The windows stare back at me, blind with frost.'

Helen Dunmore evokes all the senses to the full, so much so that you almost feel the scratchy roughness of Rob's jacket against your skin, and suffer the claustrophobic intensity of Miss Gallagher's interest in Catherine, the young narrator. You instinctively dislike Miss Gallagher, an impression underlined by the writing: 'Her bicycle was by the front steps. Upright, ugly and insistent.' And, 'The coat flopped around her, long and lean as a washed-out banana.'

Kate, the Irish maid, is the one warm gleam in the children's otherwise wintry lives, but apart from Kate they have only each other. The book, set around the first world war, is an exploration of their relationship and its development as they grow up. The story might have its darker aspects but I loved it. I would urge anyone interested in the beauty of the English language to read it and savour every word.
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Format: Paperback
The is a well contructed love story told in a graceful and captivating style. The author has been quite brave, yet obviously careful, in her portrayal of an intense sibling relationship turned too far inward to escape the youthful urges of sexuality. The individual's sense of seclusion during harsh and powerful winters is expertly conveyed. However, if your sense of morality is easily threatened, read something else; because, this is a complicated work that teases out taboos in a way in which the reader will never forget.
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Format: Paperback
This author's novels win prizes for good reason. There's not a part of this novel that appears out of place. Each and every word fits beautifully into an intricately woven and sorrowfully haunting tale.

A brother and sister are left parentless at an early age. They are brought up in a very sheltered way by a troubled grandfather, and the housemaid (not much older than themselves), in a large and deteriorating country manor. Set around the time of the First World War, this duo are caught up in a period of social hierarchy with high societal moral values. As a result, they find out early on that they have to work together to keep family secrets deeply hidden in the past. Effectively isolated from those around them, they increasingly turn to one another for comfort and their relationship develops into something more...

Take the time to get involved as a reader, right from the very start, and you will be rewarded with an intensely involved story of discovering love and adulthood, learning right and wrong. At times disturbing, challenging the boundaries of sibling love, the simple naivety of the leading character and story-teller, Catherine, encourages an empathetic understanding and sympathy for her plight. Although dark and moving, a glimmer of sunshine and redemption can be found towards the end.
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By Kate Hopkins TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 1 Sept. 2011
Format: 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.
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