Winter Sonata by Dorothy Edwards

“He had arrived only the night before. It had been cold, rainy and depressing, but now on the first day here it was beautiful, as if to welcome him. Everywhere the trees were nearly bare, but a few golden leaves still clung to the black branches. The black curving lines and the gold leaves looked as if they were painted on the cold, grey sky. The sun shone quite warmly through thin clouds, but the earth had already hardened itself for winter, and did not respond.”

Winter Sonata, Dorothy Edwards’ only novel is simple, quiet and utterly beautiful.

The story opens as Arnold Nettle, who is in poor health, escaping winter in the city and arriving in a quiet village to take up a new job, as a telegraph clerk. 

On his very first day he sees Olivia Neran through the window, and he finds himself quite besotted.

Olivia and her sister Eleanor are orphans and the live with their aunt, Mrs Curle – a woman at the very centre of village life – and their younger cousin, George.

Mr Nettle lodges with a Mrs Clark, who has a flighty teenage daughter, Pauline and a young son, Alexander.

Mrs Curle discovers that Mr Nettle plays the cello and invites him to her home. His love for her niece grows, but he is too frail, to shy for Olivia to think of him as anything more than a visiting neighbour.

Mr Nettle fades into the background as Pauline’s singing talent is discovered and another newcomer makes a much stronger impression on the village.

Life goes on.

Winter Sonata is a simple story, not too much happens, but it is a lovely book to spend time with.

It speaks clearly of how lonely the human condition can be, of how important family, friends and communities are.

And it works so well because the small cast is beautifully drawn, and the portrayal of their quiet lives is pitch perfect.

Yes, it is sad, but it is also beautiful and emotionally true.

And it is wrapped up in quite wonderful pictures of the village and the surrounding countryside, with winter overtaking autumn and then, in time, the winter fading as spring begins to emerge.

Yes, Winter Sonata is simple, quiet and utterly beautiful.

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