A Review by Lenora
As this winter seems to be never-ending, I thought that The Winter Ghosts would be suitable reading for a frosty evening in.
“There are moments of intense emotion – love, death, grief – where we may slip between the cracks. Then, I believe that time can stretch or contract or collide in ways science cannot account for.”
The Winter Ghosts is set in the South West of France a decade or so after the end of the Great War. The story unfolds as Freddie Watson, seeking translation of an ancient document which has come into his possession, recounts his strange experience to the book seller Saurat.
Freddie Watson an emotionally damaged Englishman sets out on an automobile tour for France to improve his health. Late one evening he finds himself lost on a lonely mountain road as a blizzard begins. Hearing a strange voice calling from the mountains he crashes his car and is forced to seek shelter for the night. His path through the icy forest leads him to the remote and neglected village of Nulle – a hamlet that he senses exists under a pall of sadness.
After attending a local festival Freddie becomes entranced by the beautiful and ethereal Fabrissa, and in soon drawn into the tragedy that has haunted the village and the mountains around it for 600 years.
One of the novel’s themes is the aftermath of war: both the Wars of Religion in France and the Aftermath of World War I. For me the aftermath of the first world war is examined particularly effectively in that it examines the often overlooked area of male grief. At a time when men were not encouraged to show their feelings it looks at how the loss of a brother has had devastating effects on Freddie and how isolated it has made him. It also explores the conflict often felt by communities as well as individuals between not being able to let go of the past with the other extreme of trying to forget the past entirely and think only of the future. It looks at the importance and the difficulty of achieving a balance: continuing to live life but coming to terms with the scars left by the past.
Although there are no surprises in this tale I would say it bears the hall marks of a classic ghost story. The winter setting with the dark woods and cold mountains drenched with the blood of the past, the voices of the dead calling in the soughing branches of the trees all create a achingly sad and chilling atmosphere. The damaged hero searching for redemption and drawn into a mystery by a beautiful girl is not an original idea and yet Mosse creates a wonderful story in which she evokes an immense sense of sorrow and loss and a desire to be heard – to be remembered. In which the landscape is as important as the characters and an ancient tragedy, as well as the more recent one, becomes immediate and palpable.
The Winter Ghosts by Kate Mosse is available on Amazon: