As someone who loves exploring new literature and discovering new authors (although on that note I have a shameful list of classics that I have yet to pick up for whatever crazy reason – my current read being one of them!) I am shockingly complacent when it comes to swatting up on what’s new out there. Apart from other readers out in the ‘blogosphere’ whose opinions I generally respect and that do, at times, affect what I choose to read myself, I quickly skip by the book reviews in newspapers/magazines etc as, at a glance, I don’t often find that the selection of books they choose to look at particularly enthralling and, being highly self-opinionated, I find I would rather make my own mind up rather than let someone else’s opinion colour my experience
…. reading that back there is clearly a complete contradiction between my attitude towards who I see as ‘fellow readers’ and bloggers and those poor souls I have condemned because they write for an official publication. (most likely through complete envy as I would absolutely adore to read and review books for a living) Have I perhaps automatically presumed that their selections will be a little to ‘light’ or ‘popular’ for my liking? What snobbery and foolishness and hypocrisy, as I will literally read anything once! That said, this must stop at once as I have, of late, realised the error of my ways and quite rightly discarded them. This habit of mine has finally met its end, along with my tendency to, again, literally judge a book by its cover (my Dad was mortified to discover that I had never bothered to look at Catch 22 by Joseph Heller or find out what the book was about for the simple reason that the dull grey cover of his copy had put me off (!))
So, speaking of modern authors, popular novels and judging a book by its cover I was very, very excited when I spotted a very fresh, very pretty looking new edition by Kate Mosse in Waterstones whilst wandering around after work with a friend one evening (always wandering, browsing and drooling; I am more of a 10p Amazon girl than a 3 for 2 Waterstones girl, although the smell of new books is just as exciting as any musty old book…) I immediately added The Winter Ghosts to my wish list and finally purchased it when my Mum got a copy for Christmas. It was she who originally introduced me to Mosse, and I finally got around to reading Sepulchre after much poking and prodding from her. It was excellent and I declare myself a firm fan – despite the fact that I still haven’t read Labyrinth – I’m a terrible person.
The Winter Ghosts is the extended version of a short story that Mosse originally wrote called The Cave as part of a campaign for adult literacy. It deals with the story of Freddie Watson who is coping with the death of his beloved brother George in the Great War and travels over to France after a period in a sanatorium to rest and recuperate. On his way to visit friends in the French Pyrenees Freddie is spooked by a sudden turn in the weather and the whisperings of voices in the air and crashes his car, almost diving into the valley below the mountain road. This dramatic turn of events marks the beginning of a chilling and disorientating journey between past and present for both Freddie and the anxious reader.
My personal interest in France’s past and present makes any book of Kate Mosse’s instantly intriguing. The imagined village of Nulle (a word that interestingly enough depicts the idea of nothingness in French – e.g nulle part meaning ‘nowhere’ – I wonder if that was intentional) is evocative of the many timeless, slightly down-at-heel, isolated villages that can be found across France, not merely in the South and, along with the few inhabitants (or many depending on which period in history we are thrust into) are very believable indeed. Without giving too much away; apart from the ever-pervading grief that permeates the thoughts and actions of the main protagonist, his meeting and short-lived friendship with the ethereal Fabrissa is central to this tale. This relationship leads him to delve into the bloody history of the village and its surrounding area and eventually to a discovery that incites change for both Freddie on a personal level and the destiny of the tiny village.
Like Kate Mosse’s other works, The Winter Ghosts is a haunting tale that fully showcases the author’s talent for storytelling as well as her rich and accurate knowledge of the region’s history and people. As a result, although I understand the origins of this book and why it is shorter than her previous novels, I was left desperately wanting more! I would be interested and pleased to see a development in the future on this story and the history of its characters, which could easily fill another few hundred pages and which I would happily devour. The next logical step should certainly therefore be to read and review Labyrinth and then wait in eager anticipation for her next instalment and my next dose of Occitan majesty.