Sunday, 6 May 2018

Review; 'A Winter's Love' by Madeleine L'Engle

It is always interesting to read different types of books from the same author. I first encountered Madeleine l'Engle in, of course, A Wrinkle in Time, a book that grapples with adult themes but is aimed towards children. So how does she do in a book with adult themes for adults? I never should have wondered, of course L'Engle would deliver  a stunning novel. Thanks to Netgalley and Open Road Integrated Media for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Pub. Date: 2/05/2017
Publisher: Open Road Integrated Media
A lonely woman is torn between the bonds of family and the potential of new love in this moving novel from the author of A Wrinkle in Time.
Caught somewhere between love, hate, and indifference, Emily Bowen’s marriage is hanging on by a thread. After being let go from his job, her husband pulled away from her, and the distance continues to grow during their family’s sabbatical in Switzerland. With their relationship as cold as the wind baying outside, Emily finds unexpected warmth in a man from her past. As she contemplates seizing the connection she’s been craving, Emily must decide if she’s willing to sacrifice the life she’s built for an unseen future. Poignant and powerful, this is a timeless tale of the turmoil that comes with falling in—and out—of love, and “a convincing story of mixed loyalties and divided affections” (Kirkus Reviews).
Ah, family, the source of so much happiness and so much despair. Many novels focus on the family, almost all novels I'd say. LEngle's novel, however, isn't a flippant take on family life but rather a study on marriage, parenthood and teenhood. A Winter's Love is full of love and anger, sadness and joy, all surrounded by the stunning Swiss landscape. Initially I was worried this would be one of those soppy novels, in which there are grand speeches, tragic inner monologues, moonlit nights full of forbidden passion, etc. All those things are in A Winter's Love and yet it never once feels melodramatic or over the top. L'Engle's moonlit night is one we have all experienced once upon a time, the depth of her characters' emotions are recognisable in their almost sad ordinariness. There is a sense of reality to A Winter's Love I hadn't expected but that was much appreciated.

In many ways the plot of A Winter's Love is very straightforward and quite simple. A family in something of a crisis reunites for winter in the Swiss mountains, only for all the crises that had been brewing under the surface to erupt. The magic of A Winter's Love, in my opinion, is how gently and softly L'Engle explores these crises. The pace and tone of the novel are quite restrained, but purposefully so. The plot moves slowly, almost as if every second, every decision no matter how small, counts. It is this tension that also gives the novel its beauty since despite the relative normality of the plot I still found myself holding my breath at the turn of a page. What will Emily Bowen do about the distance between her and her husband, and what about her sudden feelings for this other man? Will Courtney Bowen overcome the crippling issues holding him back from embracing his current life? Will Virginia, the Bowen's oldest daughter, cope with the sudden changes in herself and her life as she enters her teenage years?And what about the host of side-characters, each with their own internal life just begging to be explored?

Madeline L'Engle is a master at crafting characters and that is exactly what she does in A Winter's Love. It is not the plot that keeps you hooked to the pages, but rather it is the way in which L'Engle brings all her characters to such immediate life. L'Engle shows that there is something happening behind each closed door, on every face turned away at the end of a sentence, inside every head. There is some tension within the book as L'Engle seems conflicted between making Emily's love affair passionate while also not too much of a temptation. After all, it was written in the 50s. But on the other hand, the ordinariness of it all works in its own way, since the grand passion we sometimes read of in novels is often overly dramatic. The emotions of the novel are also balanced out by L'Engle placing her story in a distinct time period, just after the Second World War. There are other tensions at play in this small Swiss village, remnants of anti-Semitism and Nazi collaboration. In the shadow of the mountains and the Second World War, L'Engle's characters battle with their inner demons and their desire for love and happiness. Although not a happy book, it does feel like a true one.

I give this novel...

4 Universes!

A Winter's Love was a novel I took my time with. I loved lingering on it, languidly reading on as L'Engle's characters plod through the snow and through their lives. L'Engle writes beautifully, elevating what could otherwise be quite a dull book. I'd definitely recommend this to those interested in Family Dramas and fans of L'Engle.

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