Sunday, 21 November 2010
A Spell of Winter by Helen Dunmore
Well I have to hand it to Dunmore; she is not an author who will shy away from difficult or disturbing subjects. One of the main themes in this novel is incest between a brother and sister who grow up in a crumbling mansion with their Grandfather in the years preceding the First World War.
As if this wasn't disturbing enough the novel also explores illegal abortion, murder and mental illness. This isn't going to be a book for everyone.
The main strength of this novel however is not the subject matter but the writing. The prose is fluid and easy to read and I found myself clearly seeing the mansion in desperate need of repair and the surrounding countryside. The whole setting had a Gothic and claustrophobic feel about it and in terms of the setting, the book reminded me a little of Sarah Waters The Little Stranger. The characters were all well developed and I was glad that the main characters featured in the novel were not just limited to the brother and sister.
Unfortunately sometimes the plot moved into melodrama territory and even given the unusual circumstances I cannot believe that the siblings relationship would have entered into the territory that it did. I also feel its a shame that the incest plot line seems to overshadow all the other themes in the novel as without it more pages might have been given to the mystery of why the siblings were abandoned by their mother.
Would I recommend this? Despite this being Dunmore's award winning book, I actually preferred The Siege and Talking to the Dead to this one, but this one provides a interesting enough story if you're not put off by the subject matter.
Verdict 3 1/2/5
Posted by Jess