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Half the World in Winter Kindle Edition
About the Author
- ASIN : B00KLS30VC
- Publisher : Allen & Unwin (24 September 2014)
- Language : English
- File size : 1392 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 323 pages
Best Sellers Rank:
480,063 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- 23,385 in Contemporary Fiction (Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from Australia
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Half the World in Winter vividly portrays a family in mourning, the dysfunction common to the era and the isolation and quiet desperation as each flounders in their grief and sense of guilt. It is a story of responsibility and reverberation of actions. Above all it will leave you reflecting.
Maggie Joel writes tension and dysfunction so well it is palpable. She is a master “at depicting the kind of small, casual cruelties family members can inflict on one another” (Kerryn Goldsworthy, Sydney Morning Herald). At times this feels unbearable and then Joel deftly injects some light humour courteous of the housemaid or cook.
So what didn’t work so well in Half the World in Winter? The pacing. Very slow to warm up and then when it did it felt as if too much was happening. Too much that distracted from a very good story. Three characters all attempt suicide in the one spot of the Thames on the same night. The effect is that we are overloaded, assaulted and there is a dilution of what could have been an incredibly powerful ending. Less would have been infinitely more.
Whilst it is slow to warm we are treated to some fascinating period detail. Joel takes us to the ‘Dearly Departed’ (an emporium for all things mourning) where the Jarmyn cousins labour over the “correct” dress material and notepaper to purchase. We are exasperated while Aurora struggles with social hierarchy and the dinner seating plan. And we feel Dinah’s frustration, how trapped she feels in this family, this house and this era with all its meaningless custom.
What I will say is that if you loved Joel’s previous work, ‘The Second Last Woman in England’ you should love Half the World in Winter. Both come from the same formula. Both are quite sombre and melancholic and both will leave you reflecting.
(Three and a half stars)
Hundreds of miles away a train accident claims the life of a young girl. Her grief stricken father, Thomas Brinkley, demands justice from the head of the railway, Lucas Jarmyn, and when it is not immediately forthcoming, seeks revenge on the man and his family.
Half the World in Winter is an exploration of the dynamics of a family in mourning, and the impact of death and grief in a period where tragedy was common. The Jarmyn family are not only struck by the death of Sofia, they lose a nephew to the Boer War, a cook to a chicken bone, a discarded maid to vice, and are burdened by the deaths of those souls killed on the railway.
"Inside 19 Cadogan Mews time had ceased. It no longer existed, it had no meaning. A silence had fallen that no one felt willing to break. Footsteps were muffled, and commands, if they were given at all, were given in muted whispers in the hallways and corridors. doors were kept closed and before entering hands hesitated on doorknobs and deep breaths were taken. An excuse not to enter at all was often found."
Set in England during the 1880's, the period detail is rich and meticulous, from the minutiae of the Jarmyn's household to the physical and social context of Victorian England. I was surprisingly interested by the workings of the Victorian railway system, and intrigued by the elaborate rituals of mourning - for middle class Britons there were strict rules to be followed after a death, determining, for example, the type and colour of fabric worn, to the depth of the border on notepaper.
"Half an inch for the first three months of mourning certainly. After that the border decreases to one-third of an inch. At six months it decreases to a quarter of an inch, then in increments of a tenth of an inch over the succeeding six months depending on the nature of the loss and one's relationship with the deceased"
I did struggle with the sombre and often bleak timbre of the narrative and the measured pace of the novel quickened only marginally near the end. The writing however is stylish and descriptive, and the portrayal of the period is vivid.
Half The World in Winter is a genteel historical drama, but it was a little too slow and solemn for me to really enjoy.