The Winter House Paperback – 3 Dec 2009
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About the Author
Nicci Gerrard writes for the Observer and is the co-author, with Sean French, of the bestselling Nicci French thrillers. She lives in Suffolk with her husband and four children. Her novels Things We Knew Were True, Solace and The Moment You Were Gone are all published by Penguin and received rave reviews.
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Flying solo Nicci Gerrard has tackled the complex relationship of four very different youngsters who are reunited by the final days suffering of one of them. Marnie aged forty is summoned to a remote Scottish cottage by her estranged friend and lover Oliver to help nurse Philip who has cancer and is dying. Philip and Oliver have been friends forever. Philip has loved Marnie forever. Marnie has loved Philip forever, but not in the same way. Finally there is Lucy who has been Marnie's best friend and confidant since childhood and is entangled in this complex relationship to her detriment.
Nicci Gerrard describes beautifully and with a great and admirable empathy Philip's last few days. Comforted by Oliver and Marnie they recall their lives together as kids and as adults apart for twenty years: where they went wrong, their disappointments, their successes their losses. This is a masterclass in sensitive writing which never descends to the maudlin. Having said that it is highly emotional bringing, I imagine, a tear to the eye of the most cynical among us.
The author's descriptions of a remote, cold, winter, Scottish landscape are, believe me, accurate and add to the mood of this remarkable book.
The central character, Marnie, is an awkward teenager, dyslexic, untidy, and largely spurned by her classmates. The story of her younger life unfolds twenty years on, as she waits at the bedside of her friend Ralph who is dying of cancer. Summoned by Ralph's friend Oliver, Marnie reminisces about their teenage years, telling their story to Ralph during those cold dark winter days when he slowly fades into oblivion. It is through these reminiscences that the circumstances of their previous acquaintance and the parts Ralph and Oliver played in Marnie's past are revealed.
It's an emotional read, full of beautiful descriptions. You can almost hear the sound of the sea sucking at the pebbles on the beach near Marnie's childhood home, and you shiver as you step from Ralph's cottage into the biting cold of a winter's night. Sometimes it feels as if the snowy forest is more Scandinavia than northern Scotland so it's interesting to note (from the conversation with the author at the end of the book) that she originally thought to set the story in Sweden.
Towards the end of the book tears were rolling down my cheeks, but the distressing present-day story is short-lived between the absorbing back-story with strongly drawn characters that seem so real it's as if you know them. It is Marnie whose thoughts we share and who is therefore the most real, but her mother, Emma, although never revealing her innermost thoughts and fears, is nevertheless someone you feel you know and can rely on.
Don't be put off by the depressing theme. If you appreciate beautifully written English and like stories about friendships and relationships you'll love this.
This book was highly enjoyable,and was a novel that really had no ending-it would not be right to see everyone living happily ever after,life not like that.The only real fact that emergede is t5hat Ralph died, the rest is for you decide.
Excellent read, strongly recommended
Beautifully written, full of life and it's experiences yet desperately sad.
It reminded me of the importance and privilege of being with someone dear in their last hours.
My first Nicci Gerrard, I shall be reading more