Excerpt from A Place Called Winter by Patrick Gale, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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A Place Called Winter

by Patrick Gale

A Place Called Winter by Patrick Gale X
A Place Called Winter by Patrick Gale
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    Mar 2016, 384 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Davida Chazan
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A violent and excited patient is forcibly taken by his legs and plunged head foremost into an ordinary swimming bath. He is not permitted the use of his limbs when in the water, but is detained there, or taken out and plunged again in the bath, until the required effect of tranquility is produced.

L. Forbes Winslow, Turkish Bath in Mental Disorders (1896)

Chapter One

The attendants came for him as a pair, as always. Some of them were kind and meant well. Some were frightened and, like first-timers at a steer branding, hid their fear in swearing and brutality. But this pair was of the most unsettling kind, the sort that ignored him. They were talking to one another as they came for him and continued to talk to one another as they fastened the muff on his wrists and led him along the corridor to the treatment room.

He was the first in that day, so the echoing room, where even ordinary speech was magnified to a shout, was quiet except for the sound of filling baths. There were eight baths in a row, only three feet apart. From a distance they looked like ordinary baths. Close to, they were revealed as having a kind of hammock slung in the water.

"I don't need the hammock," he told them. "Or the muff. If you want me to climb into a bath and lie there, I'll do it. I don't need the hammock. Please?"

Ignoring him, the attendants broke off from their mumbled conversation. One unbuttoned Harry's pajama jacket. The other undid the cord on his pajama trousers so that they dropped to the floor.

"This is to calm you," one said, as though reading out an official notice. "You've been excitable and this is to calm you down." He tweaked Harry's jacket off his shoulders. "In you get."

"I'd much rather have an ordinary bath. Please, not the belts."

In a practiced movement, one of them seized his ankles while the other took his shoulders and they tipped him and lowered him into the nearest bath so that he was held in the hot water by the hammock. The temperature was high but not unpleasant. It was the loss of control that was unpleasant. One attendant held Harry's wrists in place near his waist while the other buckled a thick leather belt across his chest. They held his legs in place with a second belt, then they tugged up a thick tarpaulin cover, like a sort of tent, to enclose the bath entirely. There was an opening in this which they brought up around his shoulders and secured about his neck with straps so that as little steam as possible would escape. He was now held, immobile, in the flow of hot water with only his head on view.

"Please," he said. "Don't leave me."

The attendants wandered away, still talking. They passed two more attendants bringing in someone else who was shouting that they were trying to murder him. When the new man was undressed, he pissed on the attendant crouching in front of him and the ensuing fuss gave him the opportunity to run away. There were curses and yells from the corridor and whistles were blown, then came the muffled sounds of someone being kicked and sat upon.

The man's silence, when they brought him back in and secured him in the bath immediately next to Harry's, was worse than any shouting. And when they left him alone in the running water, he twisted his head so as to stare at Harry, which was more disturbing yet. Harry gazed through the clouds of steam at the taps and the sea-green tiles, and tried to pretend he wasn't really there.

"I know you," the man said, quietly but insistently. "I know you I know you I—"

He woke with a convulsion and sensed his own shout had roused him. He wasn't in the dormitory. The dormitory had so many bedsteads crammed into it that some, including Harry's, were in the middle of the room. The bedstead here was iron and painted white, but there the resemblance ended. He was in a small, wood-lined room, painted a calm sky blue and with thick white curtains across the little window. It was simply furnished. There was a rag rug beside the bed and a bedside table with a lamp and matches on it. His boots were on the floor and his coat on a hook above them. A suit that wasn't his hung on a hanger on the next peg along. On a plain wooden chair was a neat stack of underwear, shirts and socks he knew were not his either.

Excerpted from A Place Called Winter by Patrick Gale. Copyright © 2016 by Patrick Gale. Excerpted by permission of Grand Central Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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