Guide The Days of Winter: A Novel

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Patrick Gale has conveyed exceptionally well how harsh life was for new settlers in this cold, isolated part of Canada. How is it that he can use so few words to convey so much meaning? There are some novels that I read where all I want to do for a review is simply write the words… Read this book. Nothing more, nothing less. Well, here goes. When we first meet Harry Cane he is locked in an institute, what he has done we do not initially know, and is undergoing a rather horrendous kind of treatment.

Yet soon he is taken away to Bethel, a community for those who have been shut out or locked away from society. He is encouraged to tell the story of how he got there, the story of how a well to do and well off man started his life in England and then ended up in the middle of the Canadian wilderness building a new life that has seemingly, to an outsider, driven him mad. We watch how he grows up in England looking after his brother Jack, how he marries and then falls for the charms of Mr Browning; who soon becomes his downfall leaving Harry no choice but to head to the wilds of Canada without his family to start again.

In case you are thinking I have just spoiled the whole story, there is so much more to come, including the journey he makes there and the people he meets along the way, not always with the outcomes you may guess at. The last I will say on the plot is that it is a real journey of adventure, danger and self discovery and you will want to read it in a few sittings, often weeping for all sorts of reasons. A Place Called Winter is a blooming marvellous story. Gale is brilliant at placing you into the heads and hearts of his characters, mainly because his prose calls for us to empathise with them, even if we might not want to.

We have all been in love, we have all done things we regret, we have all fallen for a rogue or two or three , we have all felt bullied and the outsider at some point, we have all had an indiscretion and left the country to become a farmer in a foreign land… Oh, maybe not that. It also has a wonderful sense of adventure, sometimes exciting sometimes perilous. The surroundings and settings of the book become characters as much as the people.

For example the hustle and bustle of London, the leisurely nature of Herne Bay, the power of the seas, the wildness of Moose Jaw and the desolate and endless monotony cleverly without ever being boring and harsh extremities of Winter itself. He opened it, welcoming the cold night air, and stared out at a landscape transformed. There were stars, a seamless, spangled fishnet of them from horizon to horizon, coldly lighting the land and lending the farm buildings, outlined sharply against them, an eerie loveliness.

I love a book that looks brims with layers and explores several themes, or can set your brain off thinking about things from a different angle or that you may not have before. I found the way Gale looks at and discusses homosexuality fascinating and heartbreaking. It is the way that due to society everything must go unspoken. Gale even looks at the psychology that this world must have created, the need for secrecy and how it might even bring out internalised homophobia in those who were living such a life.

Listen to yourself. I preferred you married and unobtainable. In fact that is how I prefer all my men. Gale also looks at the ironies of a place where men would dance with men due to the lack of women, and shack up with other men in winter for practical reasons be they financial or simply survival, yet who would exile gay men as they would women of rape or the indigenous Indian community.

Yes, one of the main themes is homosexuality yet by its very nature what the whole of A Place Called Winter is about is humanity and also love; regardless of gender be it familial, platonic or passionate. It is pacy, thrilling, horrifying and puts you through the wringer emotionally, whilst having those wonderful storytelling and prose qualities of the past where you have the tale of a life and the intricate situations, places and people who surround and intertwine with it. I will wrap up by simply saying that A Place Called Winter is a fantastic novel and I think the best that Patrick Gale has written so far.

It has all the qualities that create a real treat of a corking read for me. It introduces you to wonderful characters, takes you away from the world you know, makes you think, laugh and cry and all whilst telling you a bloody good story.

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Easily one of my books of the year; so go on, read this book! Anyway enough of my thoughts, who else has read A Place Called Winter and what did you think? Details here and here. Hope to see some of you there. This book is classesd as an epic and in some ways it is, it has most importantly, impossible love, a sweeping sense of time and place as well as larger than life characters. Novels that are peopled with huge numbers of characters and where the main protagonists are given the space and time to explore their emotions, other characters and their surroundings.

When Harry gets to Canada he meets a man called Munck, a very shady individual who leaves a deep wound on Harry. Otherwise a fine and finely wrought story. A deeply touching love story like no other. Winter, Saskatchewan, is a real place, first settled in The town grew up around a station named after one of the contractors who built the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway, which drew European settlers to the Canadian prairies because, under the Dominion Lands Act, a quarter-section of land acres could be possessed without payment if a homesteader cultivated a quarter of it within three years. Nothing could seem more quixotic, at first sight, than that a married man living in England with a young child and a private income should decide to leave it all and sail to Canada for a life of hard physical work and uncertain chances.

By the time Harry gets on the emigrant ship, Gale has established his character with precise, economical strokes. He is apt to stammer and to stick in his rut, having been marked by the early death of his mother and constrained by everything that is expected of him. What changes his life utterly is the realisation that he loves men. In a period where homosexual acts, even in private, were punished both by the law and by social disgrace, Harry meets Mr Browning, an actor who offers voice coaching. The prairies are a new world where men and women are transformed by a way of life that is harsh but offers a certain freedom and space to reinvent the self.

The farm work he undertakes, the building of his house, the fencing and breaking of the land, are all described in authoritative and engrossing detail. But for Harry there is no chance of shedding the past. The classic story of a man finding himself through labour on his own land is derailed almost as soon as it begins to take shape. Harry is pursued by a nightmarish figure called Troels Munck who takes charge of him on the voyage out, under the guise of showing a raw emigrant the ropes. In Troels, Gale has created an extraordinary character: brutal, sadistic yet clinging, with a gift for spotting the weaknesses of other men and making himself essential to them.

Above all Troels is a creature of superbly developed animal instinct, unvexed by any ideas of morality.


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Expertly, Gale teases out the threads that bind these two men. Harry knows how dangerous Troels can be, but cannot release himself. He knew he could find his own way to a piece of land and make an entirely independent start for himself. But he goes with Troels. The quarter-section Troels has chosen for him will bring Harry great happiness, and a neighbour whom he comes to love, but it will also bring horror, death and incarceration.

Harry is committed to a mental hospital and then a more benign institution called Bethel, funded by Dr Gideon Ormshaw who uses hypnosis to open the closed doors of the mind. Neither of these self-proclaimed healers is as benevolent as he first appears. The world will not accept him as he is and punishes him for expressing his sexuality, while he is pressured from within by the destructive pattern of self-hatred expressed in his relationship with Troels.

A Place Called Winter does not offer resolution, but it does offer hope that emotional truth and loyalty to that truth may be a way forward for Harry. He is an intensely sympathetic character in his struggles, his despair and the fundamental honesty that will never let him lie to himself for long.

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Harry Cane is one of many, the disappeared who were not wanted by their families or their societies and whose stories were long shrouded with shame. This fascinating novel is their elegy. A Place Called Winter deserves every little bit of advance praise that it has gathered and is a truly exceptional novel. I guarantee you will fall in love with it.

This is an astonishing book. The landscape is very real too with the colours, the intense heat and shivering cold, and the big open skies. This is a traditional saga, of a man trying to overcome bad decisions and bad luck, to be true to himself, and to do the right thing. Even the most polished contemporary novelist can get things horribly wrong when venturing into historical fiction but Gale pulls it off beautifully. A thoroughly absorbing novel which reminds us just how much things can change for the better: while his ancestor suffered torture and virtual banishment for his sexuality, Gale lives happily and openly with his partner.

Harry would have been delighted. The settings come alive — the harshness of his life working for the Jorgensens and then alone in Winter felt very real.

The Winds of Winter: release date, news, plot, chapters and returning characters

The rhythm of his life dictated by the weather pulled me in as did his relationships with his nearest neighbours. I have to say that I was right behind Harry all the way with everything he did… As well as the settings, the writing style transported me back in history. A Place Called Winter is an emotional read.

It shares with us the fragility of mental health and the power of those that prey on the most vulnerable in a society. But this, along with the references to the racism and sexism of the time, is never heavy-handed. I was very fortunate to receive a review copy of A Place Called Winter earlier this year.

The praise is richly deserved too as this is a compelling read and I defy anyone that joins Harry Cane on his journey not to be moved by the events that define his life. Patrick Gale has done a phenomenal job of capturing the spirit of Edwardian England. There was a real sense of history leaking off the pages as I read and it was easy to imagine Harry travelling around old London and finding his way in the world. To avoid arrest and a public humiliation for his family Harry elects to leave London to strike up a new life for himself on the wild frontiers. Once he leaves London Harry makes new acquaintances and forms essential alliances.

These encounters will give him the opportunity to learn the skills he will need to establish a new life working the land to survive. I loved reading how this shy character was able to overcome the obstacles to forge new friendships and force himself to meet the people he needs to rely upon — Patrick Gale created a charming hero for his tale and gave him all too real traits which give Harry a constant air of vulnerability. A Place Called Winter has an appealing charm and tells an absorbing story.

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Personally I found the elements of the story recanting how Harry learned to work the land and build his home the most interesting. I suspect, however, that the majority of readers will be entranced by the compelling drama surrounding Harry and his evolving relationships with his family and friends. Quite simply, A Place Called Winter is a beautiful story and reading it will enrich your life.

His first for Tinder Press, his first truly historical novel, it begins in Edwardian England before setting sail for the western prairies of Canada. The opening scene is striking in its brutality.

The Days of Winter A Novel

A man called Harry is escorted from his room by two sinister male attendants and forcibly plunged into a bath full of water. A quotation from informs us that Turkish baths were used in the treatment of mental disorders. A few pages later, we meet Harry Cane as a younger man — orphaned but comfortably off, with a nervous disposition and a speech impediment. Gale illustrates the difference between the two boys through their choice of sweethearts, sisters Georgina and Winifred Wells.

Georgina is fearless, while Winifred dreams of being invisible. Taking pity on her, Harry resolves to make her his wife. His own inner life is no less dramatic. Gay literary allusions abound. There are references to the Wilde trial and more than a hint of Forster. Gale was inspired by a true tale from his own family history, and the depth of feeling shows. Some novels get under your skin and linger long after the last page has been turned. They are elusive and rare; reading them is like talking to an old friend.

The best ones tell us something about ourselves and the way other people are, and they appear to do so almost effortlessly. They are imbued with clear-eyed psychological truths navigating the emotional landscape of characters it is impossible not to care about deeply. Notes from an Exhibition gave insight into the makings of the inner life of a bipolar artist, while A Perfectly Good Man , which was a Richard and Judy Book Club title, showed the reverberations that a suicide has on a close-knit community.

Gale has said that there was always an air of mystery about this ancestor, who returned to England in the s, only to be apparently shunned by the daughter he had left behind many years before as a child when he went to seek his fortune in the colonies. The author has invented an illicit gay double life for his protagonist as his reason for leaving his wife and family, under threat of public disgrace and possible imprisonment. There he must live from the land as a settler and make a living as a farmer.

Harry is a reserved Englishman, sent to boarding school at the age of five, and it is what is not said by the characters that provides the narrative tension, propelling the story forward.


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  6. Each section acts as a layered counterpoint to the others. In this, it brought to mind The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt, not only in its sheer breadth and scope, but also in its sensitive and compelling portrait of a man. His great-grandfather Harry Cane spent the first part of his life as a gentleman of leisure among the Edwardian comforts of Twickenham.

    What then suddenly prompted him to abandon his wife and small daughter and emigrate to the Canadian wilderness? Sarah Waters has given us the gay historical novel as gothic drama. The overwhelming impression of the gentle, stammering young protagonist is of a character so scarred by a loveless childhood that he is at first incapable of emotion.

    A blankness has taken the place of his heart, a vacant space through which mild sensations of regret or concern occasionally swim. His first affair does little to heal him. Retrieved November 2, March 27, Retrieved November 25, April 1, Martin teases the prologue and plotlines of 'The Winds of Winter ' ".

    Retrieved February 2, Infinity Plus. Martin, Part I". Retrieved February 15, January 1, The New York Times. Retrieved January 2, Random House. Retrieved February 16, Retrieved February 9, R April 8, Martin Interview. Event occurs at Retrieved April 12, Retrieved April 20, January 15, Retrieved January 17, Martin talks A Dance With Dragons ".

    A fantasy author and his impatient fans". Retrieved April 23, Martin: "Trying to please everyone is a horrible mistake " ". Retrieved October 9, Retrieved July 2, April 12, Archived from the original on March 12, Martin determined to finish book by ". Retrieved June 12, The Independent. Archived from the original on September 12, Los Siete Reinos. January 2, Archived from the original on January 2, Retrieved February 18, Martin January 9, Archived from the original on August 15, Retrieved January 11, Martin on Winds of Winter release date: 'I think this year ' ".

    T his Arya-centric chapter was originally conceived as part of Martin's "five-year gap" scenario, which would have had his characters jump five years into the future at the very beginning of A Feast of Crows, the fourth book in the series. But this was eventually scrapped, with this chapter rewritten for The Winds of Winter. In it, Arya is in the midst of her Faceless Man training and working undercover at a theatre. While performing, she notices that a security guard working the theatre previously killed one of her close friends, so she exacts her revenge on him backstage.

    At a tournament in the Vale, she encounters the future lord of the region and successfully wraps him around her little finger, furthering Littlefinger's plot to have them married. P osted on Martin's website , this is the immediate follow-up to the previous Arianne chapter, but seems to indicate her potential demise. Still on her quest to find Aegon, Arianne decides to abandon her companions and find Aegon by herself.

    T his appears to be the biggest sticking point for fans who have been anxiously awaiting The Winds of Winter — will anything be new if the show has overtaken the source material? Unlike the show's first five seasons, which had the books' major set pieces to pull from, seasons six and seven proved a challenge.

    With the exception of a couple of beats. On the Iron Islands, and the things that happened there, and the great reveal with Hodor, which George told us about. At this point, after so many years writing for these characters and spending time in George's world, we had to be able to walk on our own feet. W ith that in mind, plus the obvious book-to-show differences in the released chapters so far, it seems unlikely that The Winds of Winter will merely follow the plots of the TV show.

    If anything, it'll just read like a slightly weird alternate dimension. I t's highly unlikely.

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    Thanks to release date pressure, George R. Martin has reportedly been fairly disconnected to the end of the TV series. We urge you to turn off your ad blocker for The Telegraph website so that you can continue to access our quality content in the future.