Book reviews, Pullitzer, Booker, Costa and Children's Book reviews
Book reviews, Pullitzer, Booker, Costa and Children's Book reviews
Prize Winning Fiction
Prize Winning Fiction

1996 Women's Prize for Fiction Winner

A Spell of Winter by Helen Dunmore


Publisher: Penguin

Length: 320 pages

About: Siblings haunted by family secrets

Style: 1st person

Where: Northern England

When: 1910s



Publisher’s synopsis:

A Spell of Winter is a compelling turn-of-the-century tale of innocence corrupted by secrecy, and the grace of second chances. Cathy and her brother, Rob, have forged a passionate refuge against the terror of loneliness and family secrets, but their sibling love becomes fraught with danger. As Catherine fights free of her dark present and haunting past, the spell of winter that has held her in its grasp begins to break.





My mother was a fool, a fool who ruined other fools. That was what Grandfather said when he sat drinking after my father’s funeral. He looked at me as if he hated me and told Kate to plait back my hair and not let it fall in my face like a street child’s.
‘Tight! Tighter than that! Can’t you make the child look decent, even in mourning?’
There was something about my eyes that was wrong, and the way my hair grew. I had eyes that were put in with a dirty finger, Kate said. I was too like my mother. My face made people think of the things men and women did together in the dark.





'A hugely involving story which often stops you in your tracks with the beauty of its writing.'

Carol McDaid, The Observer


Not so good:

If Dunmore sounds like the sort of writer you'd like, don't begin with A SPELL OF WINTER. Begin with one or two of her later books ---TALKING TO THE DEAD or WITH YOUR CROOKED HEART --- and read this one only if you form an attachment and are inclined to look softly upon her, much the way we forgive the lesser efforts of our dearest friends. by Kathy Weissman on January 9, 2001



About the author

Born in Yorkshire in 1952, Helen Dunmore studied English at York University and taught in Finland for two years before publishing her first book. Dunmore is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature (FRSL). Some of her children's books are now included in reading schemes for use in schools.



















Page turner







Age guide: 12+




Novels by same author:


Adaptations: none to date




2016 Pulitzer Prize Winner

It's a massive day in arts and journalism because the 100th annual Pulitzer Prize winners were just announced, and there's a big surprise. 2015's best artistic and nonfiction writing across 21 categories were recognized during a ceremony Monday afternoon at Columbia University in New York City. The first Pulitzer Prize was awarded to Hebert Bayward Swope, a reporter for The New York World, in 1916. (And if you're as big a fan of Newsies as I am, that paper should ring a bell, but try to think of it more positively.)

The major prize for book nerds, the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction went to The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen (Grove Press), a legitimate surprise, if you've been paying attention to the book nerd and industry buzz. The feeling around the prize in the last few months would have you putting all your hard-earned cash down on A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara to take home the award, but that's why you should never gamble. Viet Thanh Nguyen is no less deserving, and moreover, it's his debut novel, which makes it such a wonderful win.

Extract from New York Times to view full article...

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