Originally published: October 2009
Author: Kate Mosses
Published by: Orion
Genre: Historical Fiction
Length: 272 pages
Reading dates: 28-30 January 2023
Having previously followed the Chichester Libraries Reading Challenge, this year the Shoreham by Sea book club is borrowing ideas from a few different challenges for our themes! Kicking off January was a book on your TBR. We always make suggestions and then vote and The Winter Ghosts by Kate Mosse was chosen.
The Great War took much more than lives. It robbed a generation of friends, lovers and futures. In Freddie Watson’s case, it took his beloved brother and, at times, his peace of mind. In the winter of 1928, still seeking resolution, Freddie is travelling through the French Pyrenees. During a snowstorm, his car spins off the mountain road. He stumbles through woods, emerging in a tiny village. There he meets Fabrissa, a beautiful woman also mourning a lost generation. Over the course of one night, Fabrissa and Freddie share their stories. By the time dawn breaks, he will have stumbled across a tragic mystery that goes back through the centuries.
By turns thrilling, poignant and haunting, this is a story of two lives touched by war and transformed by courage.
Having not read a book by Kate Mosse book before and having met her at an event last year I was quite pleased to have the opportunity to read one (and one of her shorter ones too!) In The Winter Ghosts we meet Freddie, traumatised after the death of his brother George in World War One, he is travelling through the French Pyrenees in the winter of 1928 when he crashes his car.
As snow starts to fall, he manages to make his way to the small village if Nulle where he finds lodgings while he waits for his car to be fixed. There, at a town festival he meets a captivating woman called Fabrissa who he feels an instant connection to – they tell each other their stories of loss and Freddie finally feels able to talk about his brother George.
It took me a little while to get into the flow of the story – Freddie is a character who is depressed and is still struggling to come to terms with the loss of his brother and it was difficult to read at times. Once he arrives at Nulle and met Fabrissa I found my interest piqued and read the story quickly. I did find parts of the story a little predictable and others at book club said she has written books around the same period of history before, which they found disappointing.
The handling of Freddie’s mental health was addressed well – he was just 15 when he heard George was missing in action. It took him a while to realise that this meant he was indeed dead. His parents didn’t talk to him about what happened or comfort him in any way and on his 21st birthday, he had a breakdown and ended up in a sanatorium which was a source of embarrassment to his parents.
My hardback edition had illustrations throughout which I really liked and I believe the paperback edition has photos of the area. Overall, as a book club we were disappointed, half the group marking it quite low, the average score from us all was probably 6/10. I was at the higher end of the scale – I didn’t know anything about the Cathars or the genocide that took place and I’m always keen to learn about a new period of history. I found it a moving read and it was certainly made me interested to read more from Mosse.
About the author:
Kate Mosse is a No 1 international bestselling novelist, playwright and non fiction writer, best known for her multi-million Languedoc Trilogy – Labyrinth, Sepulchre and Citadel – and for her Gothic Fiction, including The Winter Ghosts and The Taxidermist’s Daughter, which she is adapting for film & stage. Her new novel The Burning Chambers – publishing May 2018 – is the first in an epic historical adventure series. Non fiction titles include The House: Behind the Scenes at the Royal Opera House and Chichester Festival Theatre at Fifty. Kate hosts the pre/post show interview series at CFT in Sussex and at the National Theatre in London, she is on the Executive Committee of Women of the World, the Founder Director of the Women’s Prize for Fiction and Deputy Chair of the Royal National Theatre.
I read this for my book group too many years ago. I seem to remember quite enjoying it. Always interesting what different members of a book group like and what they don’t.
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Some really didn’t like it much at all and generally we are a pretty positive bunch!
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