THE YEAR BEGINS WITH WINTER*
Volume 11 Number 5.
This book will not have a wide appeal to the contemporary reader. Perhaps we have been spoiled by high standards of typography, attractive page and chapter layout and very readable print in the modern book. At the outset the book suffers from an unattractive format, and this includes the paper, cover and print style.
This reviewer found difficulty in deciding whether the main purpose is documentary, or biographical or, as the cover implies if the work is fiction. In discussions of the modern novel, a "point of view" is an important feature to be noted in the development of a work. Could editorial counsel have guided the writer to provide a better narrative effect?
We are expected to see Chickie the main character heroic both in her absolutely stoic endurance through repeated bombing experiences and at the same time in her behaviour with headmistresses! "Everyone thought Chickie was a heroine to have got rid of the headmistress." This kind of juxtaposition is anticlimactic and contributes to the lack of a clearly defined point of view.
Characterization tends to be very simplistic: teachers (mistresses) are either cold and vindictive or "simpatico."
There are nuances of Cockney speech and character but these are blurred by clumsy diction, trite expressions and the inclusion of many trivial details irrelevant to the point being made; e.g., talk about "loved ones," such statements as "The women too worked in the manufacturing of weaponry," "The bombing had certainly made a mess of some people." There are tedious explanations of motive, and political situations are outlined for us by a girl of, to begin with, about seven years.
There are numerous recent examples of writers who failed to write s novel successfully who later found a different form to give shape to their material. The material of the book, the tragic experiences of the daughter of a destitute London family through evacuations, bombings, separations, and deaths during the Second World War certainly has serious significance in history and in the life of individuals.
*Alternative review. The Year Begins With Winter was previously reviewed in CM X/4, November 1982, p.236, by Mollie Hooper
Mary Fallis, Prince George, BC.
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