Staff Review – A Place Called Winter

A Place Called Winter by Patrick Gale

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This is the first book by Patrick Gale that I have read. I was drawn to this particular story because it is based in the Canadian Prairies and is set around the settlement at the turn of the century. Being Canadian and knowing a little myself about the settlement periods, I was fascinated to read a human story, rather than just historical facts and figures. I was further interested to learn that this is based loosely on a story from Patrick Gales family history.
During the settling of the west, predominately English, Danish and German men, sometimes with their wives and families in tow, sought out the “New World” for opportunities to better themselves, solely through settling and farming the wide plains of Manitoba and Saskatchewan. They were drawn by the promise of “easy riches” from the great potential to grow massive amounts of wheat on the vast plains. The reality was working extremely long days throughout the summer and struggling to survive the long nights of the harsh winters.
A Place Called Winter opens on Harry Cane, a shy, stuttering privileged English young man who follows convention and rarely steps a toe out of line, let alone speak his mind. When he is drawn into an unexpected illicit affair, his brother-in-law gives him two options – exposure or exile, Harry chooses exile.
The rest of the novel follows Harry’s incredible journey, not just through a wild, untamed, overbearing and frightening new world, but deeper into himself, while he strives to understand who he really is, how to accept the truth of his nature and whether he can survive in his new environment.
As you read, you are easily transported to wilds of Canada, Harry is awed by vastness of the lands, the lakes, the colours of the forests and the noises of the birds and what he’s surprised to learn are frogs singing. Yep, frogs sing in Canada.  You learn a little about how the settlers set up their new towns, the significance of the Trans-Canada Railroad and the impact of the settlement on the local indigenous population, the Cree Indians.
I ploughed (farming reference!) through this book, and would highly recommend it as a fascinating read.
4 out of 5!
By Amanda – Ruislip Manor Library
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