Winter Rose

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This one has been on my list for a long time; the cover looks really pretty, Sarah from The Aroma of Books liked it, and the Goodreads public seems to love it too, so I decided to give it a try.

Rois lives in a small English village in some unspecified earlier century with her father and sister, Laurel. The peace of this village is shattered when a stranger comes riding in on a horse, and turns out Corbet is not a stranger after all, but the victim of an old winter curse that everyone remembers differently. What exactly was the curse, who was the murderer, was there ever even a murder, and why is Rois so weird? These questions make up the story.

McKillip’s language is beautiful, she makes you feel with and for the characters, and even when she’s writing about something as stolid and normal as Rois’s farmer father, a bit of dreaminess slips in. I loved the imagery she creates, but there’s somehow a slightly eerie tone to her writing.

It was a song out of a forgotten kingdom, out of the deep, secret heart of the wood. It burned wild and sweet in my throat, in the back of my eyes. It lured and beckoned; it gave us glimpses of the land beyond the falling leaves, within the well. I wanted to find that place where such music grew as freely as the roses grew here, the place where the winds began, the place the full moon saw within the wood.

I loved the way she characterises the seasons; summer and spring are hope, love, colours and joy, and winter is white, empty, dark, and terrifying. This is where it gets a bit creepy, though; the winter and its descriptions drag on throughout the book, the season is, in fact the whole point of the story, so much so that McKillip sucks all the joy out of winter and gives it a sort of Dementor-like character. By the time the story ended, I was really happy that it never snows in Bombay and the worst that can happen is you have to wear three layers of clothes instead of two.

Summer ended between one breath and another, it seemed. One morning the first golden leaves appeared among the green. Then a tree flamed into crimson. The fields were stubbled gold, morning mists hanging over them, burned away slowly by the sun. Hot, blue summer sky slowly turned the deeper blue of autumn, as if it reflected, from another country, cold northern lakes and storms that did not touch us yet.

There is a lot of confusion in the manner in which the world-building is handled. It took me ages to realize there is actually another world involved in the story, that you can access it through dreams (apart from other ways), and differentiating between dreams and reality became really difficult (for me and Rois). I wasn’t very pleased with the romance angle either, the protagonists have very less time together, and half of that time also the hero spends making goo-goo eyes at someone else.

The story drags quite a bit; it’s the substance of a short story stretched to novel length, and it gets tiring after a while. It’s a good book though, and worth it for the evocative language alone; just make sure you don’t read it in winter.

Quotes to remember:

People gather, and drink, and dance, feelings begin to fly like trapped birds, things get spoken without words, music suggests things that simply can’t be…lovers suddenly wear too familiar faces, and other faces promise other worlds..

Are there different truths, the way there are different curses? Or is each curse a different truth?

P.S. This is Book 5 in the Brunch Book Challenge, my Twitter handle is @sindbadrose and the challenge handle is #BrunchBookChallenge.. 🙂

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16 thoughts on “Winter Rose

  1. All the quotes you provided are so lyrical that I feel like the language would slow me down a lot. I had to read each quote a couple of times. I did think it was interesting that you juxtapose the story being set in continuous winter when you live in Bombay!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Now you mention it, the language did slow me down a bit..there’s a lot of focus lost amidst all these lovely words..
      I swear I was so thankful when I finished the book and it was sunny and breezy outside..half expected it to start snowing.. 😛

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I have a friend from India who teaches at a college in the United States, and the college always wants her to take students on a trip to India….right during monsoon season! She tries to explain it to the administration, but they don’t listen. The class trip needs to go during your sunny and breezy season 🙂

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        1. Ooh monsoon is nice here..proper rains..but it can get a bit dirty and travelling is a big pain..we have sunny weather all year round except from the June-September monsoon..December-February would be the best time for that trip..our winter is equivalent to your summer.. 🙂

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            1. It could be dangerous with regard to health, it’s a bit easy to go down with some fever or other during this season..plus outside food is not very safe during the rains..we are immune to some extent, I think, but to people from a completely different environment, the dust and humidity and the rain might cause a lot of trouble..your friend has a point there.. 🙂

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              1. There’s a very popular documentary over here called ‘Monsoon Railway’ and they’re always having landslips and things. Your railways look fun. Ours are rubbish now but there are a few tourist railways that still have steam engines.

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          1. ‘we have sunny weather all year round’

            This morning it was pleasantly sunny with blue skies. At breakfast time the wind picked up and all the trees started swaying. About mid-morning big fat fleecy clouds made an appearance. By lunch time it had started to cloud over a bit more and was cold. At tea time we had a few rain showers. In the early evening we had a heavy rain shower. Then we had a heavy shower of hail. At bedtime we have mild temperatures and partial cloud.

            It is possible to hold an entire conversation over here with complete strangers without having to reveal any personal information whatsoever.

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              1. Layers generally. And always carry an umbrella. (The shops sell little fold up ones that fit into a handbag.)

                If you go out early in the morning though, particularly near late spring or early summer, you’re bound to get it wrong. I’ve gone out bundled up in a jumper, raincoat and wellies on a grey rainy weekend morning, only to regarded with utter astonishment, on my way back, by people in shorts and t-shirts who got up mid-morning to sunshine and blue skies.

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      1. I’m glad you have – I was wondering if maybe you’d never seen it! No, I’ve never been. I was never a very adventurous traveller and in my youth going to India was still rare and quite difficult from over here, unless you were pretty rich – which I wasn’t! I also really struggle with heat and sun – I’m a true Northerner. Give me wind, snow and rain! I regret it, though – as you know from my reading I find it a fascinating country…

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  2. You really are getting better and better at these. I’ve chosen a Really Small Book for my second attempt at reviewing but I’m still struggling. (Perhaps your lightness of touch will come with practice.)

    ‘By the time the story ended, I was really happy that it never snows in Bombay and the worst that can happen is you have to wear three layers of clothes instead of two.’ 🙂 🙂

    I thought no one was allowed to call it ‘Bombay’ any more?? It always seemed a much more romantic name to me like the flow of ‘Persia’ and ‘Mesopotamia’. Iran and Iraq have such a harsh sound like rough concrete. And ‘Siam’ sounds like porcelain and jewels unlike package tourist ‘Thailand’.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are very kind.. 🙂
      I’m looking forward to reading it.. 😀
      Yee-es, the official name is Mumbai now, but somehow these old names seem to have more soul; it is, like you say, more romantic.. ❤

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