Recommendations

Five books perfect for winter nights

Books for winter

As the nights draw in and the temperatures drop, curl up with one of these five brilliant books perfect for winter nights. Each one has a richly woven narrative that will transport you away from the sofa or from a dreary commute to different worlds and into the heads of masterfully written characters.

 A Spell of Winter by Helen Dunmore

The winner of the inaugural Women’s Prize in 1996.

Set against the backdrop of World War I, Dunmore’s novel has a gothic and ominous atmosphere. From the first chapter, Dunmore evokes Cathy’s temperament and immediately transports you to the dark mornings that come to characterise so much of the novel.

An illicit romance threatens to destabilise the security Cathy builds for herself and her brother Rob at their grandfather’s house. The truth of their parents’ desertion is slowly revealed and as the war creeps closer and the woods harbour more secrets. As a result Cathy learns just how far she is willing to go to protect herself and her forbidden passions from the outside world.

Dunmore has a masterful ability to build tension and atmosphere and a lyrical way of writing that will have you eager to keep reading.

Midwinter by Fiona Melrose

On their return to Suffolk, after leaving Zambia in tragic circumstances, Val and Landyn Midwinter face an unforgiving season that threatens their livelihood.

The novel is split into dual first-person narratives of Val and Landyn and two locations; the past in Kabwe in Zambia and the present in Suffolk. This means you can escape into both the expertly observed heat and noise of Kabwe and the cold English countryside. Melrose weaves the two narratives together and ultimately surprises the reader in the final chapter, bringing together the pain of the men’s past with the urgency of their future. 

As we continue to appreciate our natural world this book is a perfect read for this time of year. Ultimately it is a story about love and grief and the lengths we go to, to find our way back home and reconnect with the ones we have loved. 

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

During a snowstorm in England in 1910, a baby is born and dies before she can take her first breath. During a snowstorm in England in 1910, the same baby is born and lives to tell the tale.

Life After Life asks the question, what if you had the chance to experience your life again and again, until you finally got it right? The novel follows Ursula Todd as she relives the turbulent events of the last century. With wit and compassion, Kate Atkinson finds warmth even in life’s bleakest moments, and shows an extraordinary ability to evoke the past. Here she is at her most profound and inventive, in a novel that celebrates the best and worst of ourselves and the ones we love.

With various different iterations of Ursula’s life this novel offers several stories in one, immersive in each iteration be it the trauma of the Blitz in London or idyllic rural England complete with hedgerows and fox cubs. 

And read it before you see it – Life After Life lands on our screens as a BBC adaptation next year. 

The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney

The Tenderness of Wolves is a remarkable debut novel, set in the frozen lands of Northern Canada in 1867. 

As winter tightens its grip on the isolated settlement of Dove River, a man is discovered murdered whilst a 17-year-old boy vanishes. Tracks lead from the dead man’s cabin north, towards the forest and tundra beyond. When the townsfolk assemble to follow the tracks they find an unforgiving landscape. Home to wild animals and fugitives, can they follow the tracks before the snow settles and obliterates them?

A tale of mystery, adventure and suspense that was praised for its depiction of a unique, historical place. Penney brings the landscape to life so vividly, that the Canadian woods and icy forests are a character in themselves. This delicately written but thrilling novel will have you gripped and thankful for central heating!

The Road Home by Rose Tremain

The Road Home tells the story of Lev, on his way to London from Eastern Europe. He leaves behind him his beloved young daughter and old friends, carrying with him the heartache of home, for a new life in a strange city. 

The Road Home is thematically rich, dealing with loss and separation, mourning and melancholia. It explores what the altruistic motivations might be for Levi to leave his country to earn money for his family elsewhere. It is a moving and deftly written novel and amusingly recognisable to residents of London. If you are looking for a reminder of what is important this Christmas, for a story of humanity in its myriad forms, and the strength and perseverance of those desperate for a better life, this is the perfect book. 

Looking for some more book recommendations? Head over to the features section.

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