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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars

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on 27 January 2014
The author has steeped himself in the story of Hardy, Florence and Gertrude: and re-told the story with graphic immediacy. Few episodes, if any, are pure invention; but the vivid, lucid narrative makes it much more readable than a non-fiction account could be. It makes you re-live the story as Hardy, Florence and Gertrude must have experienced it, in the setting of Max Gate as they knew it.. Parts of the narrative told from the point of view of each; only Gertrude, as in life, comes out with much credit. Not much fun being married to a writer devoted to writing; perhaps writers should only marry other writers.... Yet this novelist makes you feel sympathy for them all in their tense relationships. One of the most moving scenes is Florence's visit to Gertrude's cottage, to persuade her not to fulfil her life's ambition of acting the part of Tess in London, as she had triumphantly done in Dorchester. This again is authentic, as recorded in Florence's correspondence with Cockerell. The only `historical' mistake is in the description of Lawrence of Arabia as `a tall young man', when in fact he was just over 5ft 5": the writer must be thinking of Peter O'Toole in the film; but this does not detract from the magnificent book.
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A wonderful novel, focussing on a winter three years before the death of author Thomas Hardy. Unhappily married to a depressed, rather neurotic woman much younger than him, Hardy becomes charmed with local girl Gertrude Bugler. She is part of the local amateur dramatic group, where Hardy meets her in their performance of 'Tess'. As he plans to help her get the lead role when the play is put on in London, his wife, Florence, is becoming obsessively jealous...
Nicholson tells the story in chapters narrated alternately by Florence, Gertrude and by an all-knowing narrator, who can describe Hardy's thoughts and imaginings. There are vivid, Hardy-esque descriptions of the countryside and the old-fashioned house - which he loves but which Florence does not. And the thoughts of the 84 year old as he ponders his imminent demise, his final chance of happiness, are very moving and convincing.
I absolutely loved this book and recommend it.
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on 24 August 2014
For those looking for a biography of Hardy, I'd look elsewhere. This book does not set out to perform a forensic examination or direct historical reconstruction of Hardy's later years. Instead, what Nicholson presents us with is something far more interesting and curious. The narrative describes an elderly Hardy's relationship with his wife and the beautiful and alluring Gertrude Bugler. And while Nicholson's layered account stems from a historical basis, the narrative floats somewhere between truth, half-truth, and fiction. Nicholson leads us through the Dorset countryside with elegant and understated prose which paints a beautiful and vivid portrait. I cannot recommend more highly. One of the best books I've read so far this year.
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on 4 February 2014
This is a wonderfully creative and insightful novel centring on the relationship between Thomas Hardy and his second wife Florence at the time of the introduction of Gertrude Bugler -the girl who comes to play Tess in the local production of Tess of the D'Urbevilles - in their lives. It is not only the way the writer imaginatively creates both as characters but also the quality of the writing, especially of weather and, at, times, the landscape. I loved this book and it has rekindled my interest in Hardy.
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Set in the mid 1920s, during a bitingly cold winter, Christopher Nicholson's third novel centres on the elderly novelist and poet, Thomas Hardy, as he prepares for the first English stage production of his famous novel 'Tess of the D'Urbervilles'. Hardy, who is now in his eighties, has chosen a beautiful amateur actress, Gertie Bugler, for the role of Tess and, despite his advanced years, he finds himself becoming increasingly fascinated by the striking young woman, who is happily married and the mother of a baby daughter. At his home in the countryside, a house that was built for him and his first wife many years ago, Thomas Hardy sits at his desk and writes romantic poetry inspired by Gertie's beauty, unaware that his second wife, Florence, has noticed his infatuation and is filled with jealousy and suspicion. Florence, who is forty years younger than her husband, but middle-aged, childless and unwell, sees the fecund Gertie as a serious rival for her husband's affection and, before long, the Hardys' previously ordered domestic life becomes rather unsettled.

Narrated in the third person for the Thomas Hardy chapters, and in the first person for the Florence and Gertie sections, this quiet and delicately composed novel pulled me gently into the characters' stories. The chapters narrated by Florence as she struggles unsuccessfully to control her feelings of envy, resentment and fear of betrayal were convincingly rendered, as was the portrayal of her growing paranoia - Florence is a character for whom, in her difficult situation, it is possible to feel both slightly irritated with and also very much in sympathy with. In addition, Christopher Nicholson writes descriptively well of the English countryside, but his evocation of the Hardys' domestic interior is his real strength in this novel, and it is easy to imagine oneself in their draughty, shadowy rooms, sitting by the fireside and listening to Florence reading aloud by lamplight to her elderly husband. If you enjoy pacy, plot-driven novels, then this is most probably not for you, and if you are opposed to authors using artistic licence to lightly manipulate facts for fictional purposes, then this may not suit you entirely either; however if you enjoy beautiful prose and subtle, somewhat melancholic stories then 'Winter' could provide an enjoyable and quietly entertaining read for you.

4 Stars.
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on 18 February 2014
I thought the story about Thomas Hardy, my favourite author, in his latter life and the turmoil over his women was exquisite. The author, Mr. Nicholson really captured the mood especially of the bleak dorset countryside in winter. The only thing that I did not agree on was the use of "old man" to describe him, but then he was old.
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on 14 April 2014
This is an exceptionally beautiful and original novel. It did that rare thing of moving me and making me smile at once - it is both sad and funny. Nicholson's ability to capture diverse voices and sensibilities is extraordinary. Few novelists have his range - a different historical period and cast of characters in every novel he writes, and each of them convincing. Here, Nicholson brings Hardy alive yet makes him his own, all the while giving us a perceptive and detailed view of domestic intimacy, and also of love. He is a wonderful storyteller.
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on 14 April 2014
I'm a lover of Hardy's novels and poetry, and I found this novel about the last years of Hardy's life worthy of the comparison - a remarkable achievement. Florence is angry, lonely and vulnerable, yet loving; her account of Hardy's resistance to the idea of acquiring a telephone is wonderfully funny and touching. Hardy's selfish curmudgeonliness and domestic oppressiveness are there, but so is the joy of his poetic vision. Nicholson creates the cadences of different voices brilliantly, and brings the story to a disturbing conclusion.
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on 8 January 2017
Since studying Thomas Hardy's literature at school I have been a firm fan of all his novels. Tess of the D'Urbevilles has always been a favourite, so I was intrigued when presented with this title for a recent book club selection. In the 1920’s Thomas Hardy did actually adapt his apparently favourite novel Tess of the d’Urbervilles for a Dorset amateur dramatic group, so this novel is based on real events.
Winter is not something I would have normally wanted to read as I do not like it when it seems like an author is taking the fame of another, real and or fictional for their own novel. It almost feels like cheating to me. Despite these doubts I did enjoy Winter, although I was not particularly keen on Nicholson's portrayal of either Thomas Hardy or his second wife Florence. He is portrayed as a somewhat reclusive and obstinate old man that is not at all pleasant to his much younger wife, though one feels she deserves it with her tendency to hysteria and nagging at times.
In conclusion this complex story about the winter of Hardy's life and the emotional problems arising in his marriage due to old age, his desires, fear of mortality and his wife's jealousies does provide a provoking read.
Regardless of the way the author has characterised Hardy, I still love his writing and would therefore recommend this novel to any fans of his work.
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on 28 April 2014
Thomas Hardy potrayed as a larger than life character,plodding on and ponderous.
Good descriptions worthy of reading again.
Gertude how sad that her dream was shattered by paronoia I had some sympathy for his wife too!
The cover reflected the endearing, natural and often emphatic work of quality.
Wessex was the hero of the novel.
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