Sunday, January 8, 2017
Winter by Christopher Nicholson
Paperback: 247 pages
Publisher: Fourth Estate 2014
Source: Tywyn Public Library
First Sentence: One of the old roads leaving a well-known country town in the west of England climbs a long slope and finally reaches a kind of open plain, a windy spot from which a wide prospect of the countryside is available.
Review Quote: 'Nicholson's understated prose perfectly suits this account of Thomas Hardy's unrequited love ....a superfine, thistledown novel about a novelist, a place and about love and loss....' The Guardian
My Opinion: Since studying Thomas Hardy's literature at school I have been a firm fan of all his novels. Tess of the D'Urbevilles has always been a favourite, so I was intrigued when presented with this title for a recent book club selection. In the 1920’s Thomas Hardy did actually adapt his apparently favourite novel Tess of the d’Urbervilles for a Dorset amateur dramatic group, so this novel is based on real events.
Winter is not something I would have normally wanted to read as I do not like it when it seems like an author is taking the fame of another, real and or fictional for their own novel. It almost feels like cheating to me. Despite these doubts I did enjoy Winter, although I was not particularly keen on Nicholson's portrayal of either Thomas Hardy or his second wife Florence. He is portrayed as a somewhat reclusive and obstinate old man that is not at all pleasant to his much younger wife, though one feels she deserves it with her tendency to hysteria and nagging at times.
In conclusion this complex story about the winter of Hardy's life and the emotional problems arising in his marriage due to old age, his desires, fear of mortality and his wife's jealousies does provide a provoking read.
Regardless of the way the author has characterised Hardy, I still love his writing and would therefore recommend this novel to any fans of his work.
Précis Courtesy of Goodreads:
In the winter of 1924 the most celebrated English writer of the day, 84-year-old Thomas Hardy, was living at his Dorset home of Max Gate with his second wife, Florence. Aged 45 but in poor health, Florence came to suspect that Hardy was in the grip of a romantic infatuation. The woman in question was a beautiful local actress, 27-year-old Gertrude Bugler, who was playing Tess in the first dramatic adaptation of Hardy's most famous novel, 'Tess of the d'Urbervilles'. Inspired by these events, 'Winter' is a brilliantly realised portrait of an old man and his imaginative life; the life that has brought him fame and wealth, but that condemns him to living lives he can't hope to lead, and reliving those he thought he once led. It is also, though, about the women who now surround him: the middle-aged, childless woman who thought she would find happiness as his handmaiden; and the young actress, with her youthful ambitions and desires, who came between them.
Christopher Nicholson was born in London in 1956 and brought up in Surrey. He was educated at Tonbridge School in Kent, and read English at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. After university he worked in Cornwall for a charity encouraging community development. He then became a radio scriptwriter and producer, and made many documentaries and features mainly for the BBC World Service in London. He was married to the artist Catharine Nicholson, who died in 2011 www.catharinenicholson.com. He has two children, a son and a daughter. For the past twenty-five years he has lived in the countryside on the border between Wiltshire and Dorset.
He has written three novels: 'The Fattest Man In America' (2005), 'The Elephant Keeper' (2009) and 'Winter' (2014).
Photographs and Biographical information courtesy of the following sites.
Goodreads Author Profile Amazon Author Page Author Official Website