A Winter’s Love by Madeline L’Engle : A Review
Rating : 3/5
I stumbled upon this book while browsing through the vast collection on NetGalley because of its cover and blurb. It is a tribute to my ignorance that the first thing which drew me to A Winter’s Love was not its acclaimed author but the cover. I had neither heard of Madeline L’Engle nor A Wrinkle in Time hence I approached this book like a regular read . Although the story was turbulent the book in itself was an easy read. A bit dragging at some places and with a clichéd plot, the novel stood out for me because of its characters. All of them were charismatic and original irrespective of their prominance in the story .Many of the seasoned L’Engle fans have opined that the characters remind them of a first draft version of many of the more popular L’Engle characters. As I am an L’Engle novice, I really loved the characters as I did not have any benchmark to compare them with.
Emily Bowen and her husband Courtney moves to Switzerland after Courtney gets fired from his job. They are joined by Emily’s daughter Virginia and her friend Mimi Oppenheimer for their Christmas break. Losing the job has a great impact on Courtney who gradually withdraws into himself, spending time studying and writing papers completely disconnecting from his family. Emily is lost and forlorn in this new place without anyone to talk to, neither her husband nor friends. Soon, she runs into Abe Fielding, a mutual friend and widower who provides Emily with emotional support. A dormant attraction between them arises and starts complicating the already turbulent life of the Bowens. It doesn’t help matters when Virginia and Mimi accidentally glimpses Abe and Emily kissing. In parallel, there is a love story brewing between Mimi and Sam, Abe’s son, to whom Virginia also feels slightly attracted. The other characters are Gertrude, a WWII survivor who feels her lover Kaarlo is having an affair with Emily.
A Winter’s Love is a study of relationships, marriage and family set in the background of self-discovery. One of L’Engle’s earlier works, this book is a slow read as the plot progresses at a gradual pace thereby effectively showcasing the hesitation, the doubts and the turmoil deep within the characters as they find themselves in situations which they had never imagined. These adversities force many of the characters to uncover the hidden people inside them. The love story around which the main plot revolves is passive rather than one filled with passion. I did not find myself rooting for the romance as both the characters were not completely convinced about it and the relationship was questionable. Abe Fielding did not come as superior to Courtney in any way. Abe or Courtney, Emily was doomed either way. Some of my sympathy lies with Courtney, although his brooding was not acceptable. Yet, he had a reason for this change as he is struggling to come to terms with his predicament and does not want to alarm his family by voicing his frustrations out loud. Emily is also a well formed character but is highly passive and indecisive allowing the circumstances to dictate her behavior. There is a lot of pondering and analysis done by Emily throughout the book which laid her bare for the readers and was enjoyable.
The entire book is shrouded by bad weather and storms which eclipses the inner turmoil and rages of the characters. The entire climax takes place in an especially bad snow storm. Yet adding freshness to this dull portrait are the two teenagers Virginia and Mimi. Mimi, coming from an unconventional family becomes heavily drawn to the stable family life of Virginia Bowen. Yet, she details bold stories and puts up a worldly attitude masking the teenager inside her. Virginia is a shy and introverted child who writes poetry and enjoys quiet solitude. Yet, she doesn’t shy away from giving a piece of her mind when her principles and righteousness are challenged. Mimi and Virginia greatly complement each other with one’s cynicism and other’s idealism. Also touched upon are the social and political issues in everyone’s mind following WWII. There are a few characters with a clear prejudice against Jews and supporting the views of Hitler. A prominent one amongst them was the gossip monger land lady who is made rich by consorting with German soldiers. Even without a hint of remorse for her actions, she appears in front of Gertrude, a concentration camp survivor, with her daily dose of rumours to unsettle him.
Overall, the book is a good read for its writing style which focuses on paragraphs of introspection and descriptive passages. The character formation also is excellent. The let down in the story is the shaky plot and its presentation without adding any new exciting details to an age old cliché. I would recommend this book to anyone who have not read any books of L’Engle. But, fans of L’Engle should tread with caution as it may not be exactly what they are expecting.
Thank you Net Galley for furnishing me with this review copy and the views expressed here are my honest opinions.