Review: The Winter Ghosts

Posted 28 March, 2016 by Lianne in Books / 2 Comments

The Winter Ghosts
By: Kate Mosse
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase

A haunting ghost story from the French mountains. The Great War took much more than lives. It robbed a generation of friends, lovers and futures. In Freddie Watson’s case, it took his beloved brother and, at times, his peace of mind. Unable to cope with his grief, Freddie has spent much of the time since in a sanatorium. In the winter of 1928, still seeking resolution, Freddie is travelling through the French Pyrenees – another region that has seen too much bloodshed over the years. During a snowstorm, his car spins off the mountain road. Shaken, he stumbles into the woods, emerging by a tiny village. There he meets Fabrissa, a beautiful local woman, also mourning a lost generation. Over the course of one night, Fabrissa and Freddie share their stories of remembrance and loss. By the time dawn breaks, he will have stumbled across a tragic mystery that goes back through the centuries. By turns thrilling, poignant and haunting, this is a story of two lives touched by war and transformed by courage.

Huzzah, I’m finally reading this! It’s only been on my wishlist on GoodReads since I first opened my account there years and years ago 😛 I’ve enjoyed Kate Mosse’s Languedoc trilogy, the second book Sepulchre (review) is one of my favourite books ever. I had been meaning to get around to her single novel stories and ended up picking up all three towards the end of last year. Decided to start with this book as it seemed rather fitting for the winter season 🙂

The Winter Ghosts is a pretty straightforward story touching on the subject of loss and memory, survival and the effects of war, all set in southern France and the ancient Carcassonne region that Kate Mosse’s novels are usually set in. It’s haunting in two respects: Freddie is a man burdened by the guilt of survival, having lived on while his older brother lies dead from the First World War. His grief lingers on years after the war had ended, and he finds himself in the French Pyrenees where he spends the night after his car veers off the road and takes part in the fete of Saint Etienne. It was interesting to read as the layers peel back to what exactly lies at the heart of his grief, and I felt sad for him and what he had to endure since the death of his brother.

The ghostly aspect of this story was also interesting and provides much of the chills here. Kate Mosse brings to the story the sad history of this region rocked by religious wars and persecutions from the 14th century. I wished a bit of backstory was added/fleshed out more to explain exactlywhy the Cathar community was persecuted–I remember bits and pieces slipped in with the Languedoc trilogy but it requires a bit of outside reading to understand why this community was pursued the way they were to their sad and haunting end. Nonetheless it was interesting to see how that story and Freddie’s personal story intersected in this novel.

In the end The Winter Ghosts was an interesting read. Not quite so atmospheric as Sepulchre or as fleshed out, but it nonetheless held my attention and it was ultimately a rather haunting read in more ways than one.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

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