Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Wolves, Bears & The Asylum - Dangers of Canadian Farm Life

A Place Called Winter by Patrick Gale

He had absolutely no idea how Canadian mittens might differ from the English variety and was faintly alarmed at the prospect of a cholera belt, whatever that might be, but reading the list evoked the adventure pleasantly even before it was under way.

In the opening to Patrick Gale's 'A Place Called Winter' we are introduced to Harry Cane. We first meet him as he is being 'treated' in an asylum. This very first glimpse at the brutality of how mental illness was treated in years gone by quickly introduces us to the different attitudes of the Edwardian time period. However there are those who believe these 'treatments' are useless and that there is a more compassionate way to care for people who might be suffering. One such person comes to Harry's rescue as he removes him from the asylum and moves him to his therapeutic community in rural Canada.

We are soon taken back to Edwardian England and begin to explore Harry's early life. We follow his life from his days as a shy, stuttering bachelor living in London through to marriage and starting a family in the seaside town of Herne Bay. Life seems to be going well for Harry but soon an illicit affair forces him to leave the country and start all over again. After discovering that he can claim farm land in Canada in return for simply working the land a new adventure is beginning for Harry. But what has happened in between deciding to move to Canada and his ending up in an asylum? That is what we are to find out.

Be prepared, this one is an emotional roller-coaster! I was really taken in by the opening. I was particularly intrigued by the community which Harry had been moved to. I was actually disappointed when the story switched to Harry's earlier life in England. I will be honest, it took me a while to get into the story in England. I'm not quite sure why but it didn't seem to grab me in the way the opening had. However, the opening was so promising that I pushed through and I am so glad that I did. Eventually the story of Harry's life in England becomes enthralling and I couldn't put this one down. The story of Harry's move to Canada is wonderful. The setting is so vividly described, the characters are so real that you feel like you really know and care for them and the plot is intriguing especially as we already know where Harry will end up. There are some truly wonderful characters in this book who I could have read about for far longer, they really end up feeling like friends that you just want the best for. In stark contrast, this book also contains one of the most vile villains I have ever read about. I don't think I have ever been so bothered by a character before.

I can very easily give this a 5 out of 5 rating! I could quite happily just gush about this one so I am trying to restrain myself. From the idleness of Harry's existence in London through the hardships of farming in Canada and onto the asylum and therapeutic community, every part of the book feels authentic. It has obviously been well researched and all the different settings feel very real at all times. I really do feel like this book has something to offer everyone. It is one of the most beautiful love stories, a tale of great adventure and so much more. I would recommend this to everyone, it really is a fantastic book that I am sure the vast majority of people will find something in it that they will enjoy.


  1. Great review – I also loved this book. I also love the quote you've chosen which perfectly illustrates the tone of the novel.

    1. Thank you :) Despite being purchased on a whim it has ended up being my favourite book that i have read so far this year!