Review: A Spell of Winter, by Helen Dunmore

a spell of winter helen dunmoreRating: ★★★★☆

Genres: Gothic Literary Fiction


‘I saw an arm fall off a man once,’ said Kate.

So begins A Spell of Winter, the inaugural winner of the Orange Prize for Fiction, now known as Women’s Prize for Fiction. I am partial to a good Gothic story, so it comes as no surprise that I loved this book!

A Spell of Winter tells the story of Cathy, a girl living with her cold grandfather and her brother Rob in England, in a big house that once was full of life, before her mother ran away and her father was locked away in a sanatorium. As Cathy’s life becomes more complicated and full of dark secrets, and World War I slowly starts to threaten the their quiet town, she must not let herself break.

I loved the author’s writing – so beautiful and vivid. I felt at times it was a little too much, but it’s a Gothic literary book, so really that’s to be expected. And like many of this genre, A Spell of Winter is also somewhat slow-paced, but still so much happens and you’re holding your breath through so many of the scenes. This book is so intense, and so unique, full of imagery and cold but sensual beauty in the writing. It’s one of those books that, when they’re over, you don’t know how the world around you hasn’t changed.

I didn’t give it five stars because I do wish the pacing had been more consistent, and I hoped for a bit more nuance in some characters, like Miss Gallagher. But overall, a solid novel that left a deep impression. Also makes a great atmospheric read for Fall and Winter!

7 thoughts on “Review: A Spell of Winter, by Helen Dunmore

  1. Great review! I was also surprised (but felt I shouldn’t have been) by how heavy the content got at times. And I agree about the pacing- there were moments when I was really hooked and others it seemed like nothing was really happening. But all in all, a great book to be reading in October, so haunting and immersive! I’m glad you enjoyed this one as well!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Review: A Spell of Winter | literaryelephant

  3. Pingback: The Sunday Snuggle W44/2019: October Wrap Up | Naty's Bookshelf

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