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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For it was springtime, which was presumably why the river was so mightily in spate. The greening woods behind him were full of birdsong and, sitting on his terrace, he watched birds, chipmunks and squirrels darting back and forth on the grass, going about the exhausting spring business of putting on fat and finding a mate.

He had no sense of where he was or how far he and the silent attendant with him had traveled. Being expected to board a train had stirred up in him such violent misgivings that they had been obliged to administer a second dose of the sedative, so he had slept like a drunkard for much of the journey. The latter part of the voyage, by road, was undertaken in darkness. All he registered as he tumbled into a bed whose linen had been chilled by sharp mountain air, was relief that his bed was on its own, and that he could hear only his own sighs and breathing, not the shouts and weeping of others.

A gong sounded from the main house. Harry flinched, prepared for the idyll to be broken by orderlies or nurses, but glanced across and saw only a simply uniformed maid standing by an open door. Noticing him, she raised a hand in greeting, tapped the gong a few more times as though for his benefit, then slipped inside again. The door of the next cabin along opened and there emerged a slender blonde woman wearing respectable but antique clothes.

"Good morning," she said in a high voice, and he rose to meet her. As she offered him a small, lace-fringed hand, he saw she was considerably older than her figure suggested.

"How do you do," he said.

"Are you going to breakfast?"

"I…I imagine so."

"You must be hungry after your journey," she said. She had one of those little-girl voices which so often seemed to mask an aggressive nature. "We heard you arrive but were under strict instructions to leave you in peace. I'm Mabel. We use no surnames or titles here. The good doctor is Quakerish in his leanings." She laughed, skittishly.

"I'm Harry," he told her.

"Delighted. Harry, let me take you to breakfast."

"Is this a hospital?" he began, and she laughed again.

"Another forbidden word. You're quite the rebel, I can see! It's a community. A therapeutic community. Now, here's Bruno."

A mannish woman in a boxily tailored outfit, a sort of suit, had emerged from a third cabin. She shook Harry's hand and fired off a series of questions about his journey he felt quite unable to answer, not having been aware even of where he had come from. She was gently rebuked by Mabel, which she took in good part, and they proceeded toward the house. Other doors had opened, and all told, some eight of them were now walking that way. Apart from the two ladies he had met, all were men. One of them, a black man Harry assumed was someone's servant, stood back respectfully and, naturally, unacknowledged, until the rest of them had passed.

As they neared it, the door to the cabin closest to the house opened. A tall Indian woman had emerged, dressed in quietly elegant Western clothes. She ducked her head as he looked at her, showing off the black hair she wore in a thick cascade. Mabel gave a little cough, drawing his attention back to herself.

There were two rooms at their disposal, both overlooking the river. One was the snug library, into which he merely glanced; the other the dining room, in which their host bade them all a general good morning before singling Harry out for greeting.

Harry recognized him as one of the doctors who had occasionally questioned him at the asylum—a tall, dark-haired young man with a thick mustache that emphasized his sad, moist eyes. Instinctively Harry stiffened.

"It's all right, Harry. You're among friends now," the doctor said and shook his hand emphatically in both of his. "Did you manage to sleep in the deafening quiet?"

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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  Settling Western Canada

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