Review: A Place Called Winter by Patrick Gale

Patrick Gale’s A Place Called Winter could be a staid, fairly predictable story about a man who leaves Britain to go to Canada on a journey of self-discovery. Instead, from its explosive opening chapter you know that it’s going to be so much more than that.

Shy Harry Cane lives a conventional life with few surprises and little excitement. Although content with his wife and her family, one day Harry’s life changes completely when he embarks on an affair. When his illicit relationship is threatened with discovery Harry leaves his wife and daughter behind to head to Canada, where he plans to become a farmer. His dreams for a simple life are in his reach, but war and a man with evil intentions could threaten everything.

My description, I’ll be the first to admit, is inadequate, because A Place Called Winter is so much more complex than I’ve led you to believe, but I want you to read it spoiler free, so there is a lot I can’t and won’t say.

What I can say is that A Place Called Winter is so much more than you would expect from any description (mine or someone else’s). Its opening section is completely unexpected, with Gale thrusting the reader into a completely unfamiliar situation with any reference point (it’s certainly not hinted at in any synopsis), but it completely works – I didn’t want to put the book down because I was so intrigued and wanted to know how Harry had ended up in the situation he was in.

From its opening, and from what you know is coming (it can’t be good even if you don’t know what it is), it wouldn’t be a surprise if A Place Called Winter turned out to be a bleak novel. But again, Gale’s novel takes an unexpected turn – yes, it’s bleak in parts, but overall it’s full of hope and love and tenderness. A large part of that is down to the character of Harry, who is just such a decent guy who is so deserving of having good things happen to him. He’s a character who just want to root for.

Harry goes on a literal and metaphorical journey through A Place Called Winter, and the reader goes on an emotional journey. It’s difficult to say too much more – I can tell you how how good this book is until I’m blue in the face, but it’s no match for you reading it and experiencing the emotions yourself. Beautiful, lyrical, sad, bleak, hopeful, A Place Called Winter will have you going on as much of a journey as Harry, all from the comfort of your favourite reading spot.

•A Place Called Winter is released on March 26 2015.

How I got this book: From the publisher, Tinder Press. This did not affect my review.

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