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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He stood with Harry admiring the swirling waters for a minute.

"The mighty Athabasca," he said.

"Does it ever flood?" Harry asked.

"Oh, yes. I lost my dog to it last winter."

"How upsetting."

"There was a hole in the ice and the silly thing was fascinated by the way the water repeatedly splashed out of it. He wouldn't stop going over there, so I kept him tied up. But then some kind person let him off and he fell through and drowned before we could cut him out."

"Have you forgiven them yet?"

The doctor smiled. "Not yet," he said. "I forgave the resident right away—she was so upset. Forgiving the river may take a while longer."

They sat on either side of his mahogany desk, on which he had an open file.

"So, Harry. Welcome to Bethel. How was breakfast?"

"Delicious, thank you."

"Good. This isn't an asylum, although everyone here is what my colleagues at Essondale—where you were—would call mentally ill. All of you have displayed behavior or declared opinions that have caused people to want you put out of the way.

"I happen to be making some of those behaviors my particular study. I depart from my colleagues in regarding them not as pathological but as intrinsic to a personality type. And I have won the state's trust sufficiently to have been allowed to bring some of you here to help me with my research. You are not under lock and key. You are at liberty to walk in the gardens, to follow the trails in the woods and even to go into Hinton, should you wish. All I ask is that nobody leave the immediate grounds unaccompanied and that you always let me know your whereabouts by signing yourselves out in the register on the hall table.

"I also ask that you respect one another's privacy; we all have stories but I prefer those stories to emerge voluntarily, not through interrogation.

"I ask that you respect one another's differences, too. You may already have seen—you almost certainly will see—behavior you might regard as odd or even wrong. But remember that, in the eyes of the attendants at Essondale, or wherever, your behavior has been odd or wrong as well.

"Here endeth the homily. Do you have any questions, Harry?"

"Only…" Harry began. "It's so different here. Like a private house."

"It is a private house." Gideon smiled. "It's my house."

"Do we pay fees?"

"You are all here as my guests. When you leave, if you choose to send a donation for the furthering of my work, I won't stop you. I inherited a certain amount from my father and it pleases me to spend it this way."

Harry sensed the good doctor and his father had not been in sympathy.

"So. I need to ask you a few things before we start…"

He rattled off a series of questions. What was Harry's name and birth date, where did he live, who was the king, who was the prime minister, how would he react to a slug beneath his shoe, a cat being tormented by small boys, a naked woman in a public place. Harry avoided crushing the slug, chased off the boys and covered the woman with a blanket.

"So," Gideon said. "In the crudest terms, we have established that you are not insane or dangerous. You are, however, suffering from a trauma, a trauma not unlike that which we've seen in all too many men returning from Flanders with battle scars to the mind. Harry, I plan to use hypnosis to help your mind open the doors it is so desperately holding closed. Has anyone ever hypnotized you before?"

"No."

"No need to look apprehensive. You will be aware throughout, and if I find you are becoming upset, I will bring the procedure to an end. Agreed?"

Harry nodded.

"Hard to take your eyes off the river, isn't it?"

"Yes."

"That's good. I want you to sit over here in the armchair. That's it. Sit back. Take a few deep breaths. Relax. Why do you laugh?"

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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