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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Davida Chazan
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Wide awake now, he found water on the washstand in a jug and washed. He stared at his face in the little spotted mirror hanging there. A gaunt stranger stared back at him. He did not remember growing a beard, but, of course, where he had come from there were no razors and no looking glasses either: nothing to wound or inflame.

Dressing in the spotlessly clean clothes, which fitted him so well he might have been measured for them as he slept, he made an effort to be calm. Breathe, he told himself. Remember to breathe. And he remembered another man's voice telling him that very thing and had to sit abruptly on the little bed to compose himself, so acute and ambivalent was the memory stirred.

Venturing out into dazzling morning light, he would have thought he had woken in a kind of heaven, were it not for the lingering sense that hell was flickering just out of sight, whichever way he turned his gaze. He knew he had been in hell. He had livid marks on his wrists and ankles where restraints had cut and bruised his flesh, and when he moved his back, it still ached from blows and kicks that had rained upon it.

Earlier than that, before hell, his memories were more damaged still. These memories lay in rooms he couldn't enter. In the quiet moments of lucidity between baths, he had approached them closely enough to sense they were wrapped in a grief so powerful that even to put his hand on the doorknobs would fry his skin.

Now he was in a river valley with lush grass cropped by sheep and a couple of languid cows, running down to a broad, brown river on whose powerful current he had already seen several fallen trees sail past from left to right. Great ranges of blue iced mountains lay to either side, their lower slopes thickly forested. A church bell rang somewhere off to the left. The beauty of it, the intensity of the colors and the relative silence, overwhelmed him for a moment and he sat on a little bench to recover.

He was not insane, although he felt sure the experience of being treated as though he were would soon have deprived him of his wits had it continued much longer. He looked up, attention snagged by a buzzard's cry. I know a hawk from a handsaw, he thought. It was an asylum, not a prison, where he had been, but he had been deprived of liberty, and, so far as he knew, without trial.

The attendants had come for him as usual, after breakfast, and he had assumed that the endless, soul-eroding process of pacifying him by water treatments was to continue. He marginally preferred the cold wrap to the continuous bath, if only because it was administered in a smaller room where he had precious peace and quiet, provided he didn't begin to shout out in a panic. If anything, though, it was even more constraining than the bath, involving as it did being tightly wrapped in a sheet dipped in cold water, around which were wound two more sheets, a rubber mat and then a blanket, before he was left secured to a wire bed frame, sometimes for three hours, quietly dripping first with water, then with sweat.

Today, however, he wasn't to have a treatment.

"You're going on a journey," one of them told him. "Young Mr. Ormshaw has picked you to help with his research, so we need you nice and quiet."

They rolled up his sleeve and administered an injection that was clearly a powerful sedative, for by the time they had given him socks to wear and handed him back his old boots and overcoat, he was so foggy in the head that he couldn't have spoken any of the questions that crowded his mind.

His little cabin had a shaded terrace on one side of it. It was one of several such, clearly built from identical kits, arranged in a half-circle before a large log-framed house that resembled some fanciful idea of a Tyrolean chalet and on to whose veranda he half expected chorus girls to emerge in dirndls, holding hoops of paper flowers and singing of love and springtime.

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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