Wednesday, February 09, 2011


A Winter's Love, Madeleine L'Engle, Random House Inc, 1957, 260 pp

In her fourth novel, the one just preceding her breakout, A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L'Engle takes a common plot and creates a moving story. Emily is a wife and mother of two daughters. Her husband, Courtney, a Classics professor, has lost his teaching position at an Eastern American college, causing the family to follow him into a "sabbatical" in a French Alpine resort town. Courtney is suffering from depression, loss of confidence and midlife crisis. He has retreated emotionally and left Emily adrift.

She tries to be an understanding and dutiful wife but an old friend shows up in town, a man who has always seemed to understand her better than anyone. Passion flares up between them and for the two weeks before Christmas, Emily is torn between her family and this man.

As I said, it is an old and overworked tale. But though this is not Anna Karenina nor Madame Bovary, the novel has special qualities, its own share of tragedy, as well as joy. The setting is part of it: winter, snow, the Alps, are all brought to life with spare but lovely description. The characters are also alive and real, especially the daughter and their friends. Most of all, Emily's story contains much truth about how it is for a woman and that is what I liked best.

(A Winter's Love is available in paperback by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore. You can find it at your nearest indie bookstore by clicking on the cover image above.)

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