Synopses & Reviews
Helen Dunmore's most celebrated work never before published in the United States is a compelling turn-of-the-century tale of innocence corrupted by secrecy and the grace of second chances. Bearing the distinctive lyrical beauty of her predecessors, A Spell of Winter asserts Dunmore's claim to the territories staked out by some of the great nineteenth-century novelists. But with a strong, sensuous magic and a modern understanding of love that is all her own, Dunmore defies all the old formulas. Catherine and her brother, Rob, do not know why they have been abandoned by their parents. In the house of their grandfather, "the man from nowhere," they forge a passionate refuge for themselves against the terror of family secrets, and while the world outside moves to the brink of war, their sibling love becomes fraught with dangers. But as Catherine fights free of the past, the spell of winter that has held her in its grasp begins to break. The novel's rich imagery moves between the stark, harsh winter world that Catherine loves and the warm summers she loathes, when the air is thick with the scent of roses and painful memories. Through decades of changing seasons, the two siblings mature within an enclosed world in which they are virtually imprisoned by servants who guard the mysteries of their heritage. In different ways, first Rob and later Catherine will dare to break through the wall that encircles their perversely stifled lives to move toward heartbreaking but final release. Dunmore's hypnotic, affecting prose is filled with unexpected tenderness and moments of beauty as she expertly evokes a melancholy era with a wholly original edge and keenness. A Spell of Winter recasts the Gothic pastoral novel with breathtaking contemporary insight and explores with astonishing perception the moral complexities of human choice and action.
"A Spell of Winter is a book which reads as if it was burning a hole through the writer's desk...Unforgettable, packed with lambent images and mysterious like the best poetry, or dreams." Venue
"Unsettling love and stifled horror create and then destroy the claustrophobic world of this lush, literary gothic set in turn-of-the-century England....Though the setting is classic gothic, the novel is peculiarly modern with its precise, unforgiving depictions of childhood and madness, its dark sensuality and surprising, artful use of metaphor....a finely crafted, if disturbing, literary page-turner." Publishers Weekly
"Helen Dunmore's spellbinding, lyrical prose is close to poetry. she writes like an angel and the compelling turn-of-the-century story she so skillfully unfolds in A Spell of Winter makes the emotions churn and tingle. A marvelous novel about forbidden passions and the terrible consequences of thwarted love...Dunmore is one of our finest writers."