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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Had they a sister or mother still living, or even friends with sisters, none of this would have been so and women might have become normal, even uninteresting to him. Their mother's parents used to make a point of inviting them to visit in the country every summer and, now they were adults, would surely have set about making suitable introductions. The boys' grandfather had long since died, however, and his widow become senile, and their uncles and cousins, who had always regarded their existence as a piece of social awkwardness, had let all communication wither.

Harry looked around him, especially at his club or in the Jermyn Street hammam, at the men who had never married—one seemed to gather by osmosis which they were—and thought their lives did not seem so very disastrous. Provided one had a Mrs. Allardyce to keep one fed and clean, and the services of a tailor and a barber to keep one presentable, the single manly life was apparently not so bad. He noticed that these men reached a point, perhaps over some tacitly understood age limit, when they began to be called confirmed bachelors, which implied they had passed (or failed) some test, or even, kindly, that their single state was of their own choosing and not a cruelty of fate.

After their father's death, Harry was made aware of where the money that had always materialized so reassuringly in his bank account came from. Apparently under the impression that he was a species of cosseted imbecile, the family solicitor talked him through it with such pedantic slowness that his brain did indeed begin to feel barely able to retain all the facts. Most of his father's estate was tied up in property—terraces in Brixton and, indeed, Mrs. Allardyce's Lambeth, whose rent was raised by agents. As part of the bargain struck when he sold off the omnibus company, he had acquired stock in the LGOC and a portfolio of shares in affiliated railway companies. At some point—presumably during his sojourn on the Continent—he had obtained a considerable interest in a German armament company, which had performed extremely well, and in a ballet company, which was on the verge of bankruptcy. The residue of Harry's mother's legacy had been used to buy a row of houses in Kensington.

A property in Nice was to be left to a Madame Grassert. Harry remembered the woman at the graveside, how her veil had become caught in her mouth, how firmly her little black-gloved hands had grasped at her friend's arm. Had she, he wondered, been led to expect more?

The solicitor carefully avoided Harry's eye but, staring at the Frenchwoman's name on the paper before him, said, "Your father's French bank account was frozen at the time of his death, naturally, once his notary had settled all outstanding accounts. It might be possible, if you like, to have him pursue the matter to see if any, er, substantial sums had been transferred to…another French account, but I fear these could not be recovered. Should you wish to contest this bequest, however, we could certainly—"

"No, no," Harry insisted. "Let the matter rest." Such gifts were not made without forethought and planning. If she had made his father's latter years happier, she had earned the roof over her head at least. Nice was, he felt sure, not a place he would ever visit again.

The thought of suddenly being responsible for so much property worried him, and he was relieved to hear that once he had signed a few bits of paper, he could leave everything exactly as it was and his now considerably larger income would continue to come in as before. It was brought home to him that, left nothing, Jack now depended directly on him for everything. His immediate instinct was simply to split the inheritance in two, but apparently this would not do. Because of fees, his holdings generated more income for them both if left intact.

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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