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Winter Sonata (Virago Modern Classic) (original 1928; edition 1986)

by Dorothy Edwards

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1086113,849 (3.07)40
Member:Cariola
Title:Winter Sonata (Virago Modern Classic)
Authors:Dorothy Edwards
Info:Penguin (Non-Classics) (1986), Paperback
Collections:Your library, Virago Modern Classics
Rating:
Tags:Fiction, 20th Century, British, Virago Modern Classic; given away

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Winter Sonata by Dorothy Edwards (1928)

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Winter Sonata is beautifully written, but there's something very cold at the heart. The characters seemed like automatons to me, repeating the same actions almost meaninglessly, and there was little by way of an emotional arc for the story -- the back cover suggests a plot that isn't really there, about one of the main characters falling in love, and then his hopes fading away... It's there, if you want to read that into it, I think -- at least the falling in love, if not anything explicitly about hopes fading away -- but it's very delicate and cool.

Her suicide note read: "I am killing myself because I have never sincerely loved any human being all my life. I have accepted kindness and friendship and even love without gratitude, and given nothing in return." So that coolness seems to me to come mainly from that view on life.

I keep wanting to say poetic things, like comparing it to a delicate statue made of ice.

The introduction is quite short, but gives some revealing details about Dorothy Edwards' life. ( )
  shanaqui | Apr 9, 2013 |
Winter Sonata revolves around the lives of several people in a small English village. Arnold Nettle is a shy telegraph operator, disinclined towards conversation, which nonetheless is invited to his neighbors, where he plays the cello for them in the evenings. He falls in love with Olivia, the eldest daughter, a smart, introspective young woman with good judgment about other people. Other characters in the drama include Olivia’s teenage sister Eleanor, their cousin George, his best friend Mr. Premiss, and Mr. Nettle’s landlady’s teenage daughter, Pauline.

Although the book claims to be a love story, it is mostly about the interactions between the main characters. Although part of the group, Mr. Nettle is completely detached from them, and it’s interesting to watch the difference between Olivia, who’s in her twenties and has a head on her shoulders, and the two teenage girls, who are both completely infatuated by Mr. Premiss—a roué who thrives on the admiration of women if ever there was one. Olivia can see what a pompous ass he is, and part of the fun of the book is watching her play around with him. Dorothy Edwards depicts the differences between these girls and women very well. There is also a subtle commentary on the stratification of social class, seen in the difference between Mrs. Clark and Pauline, and the Nerans and Curles.

Like the eponymous season, this book is somewhat bleak in its aspects; there are endless, repetitive references to the weather. In a sense, though, the weather and the characters’ moods are very similar; there’s a sense of gloominess in the tone of the book and the prose Edwards uses to describe her characters’ mental and emotional states. It’s maybe reflective of the author’s own state of mind. ( )
1 vote Kasthu | Sep 9, 2012 |
Not a bad book, but didn’t do too much for me. It starts out as the story of Arthur Nettle, a quiet man who moves to a small town. He observes his harried landlady and her sullen teenage daughter Pauline and meets the Neran sisters, Olivia and Eleanor. Nettle falls in love with Olivia, but it’s something he can’t even mention. Their cousin, George Curle, takes him up even though he rarely talks. In the second part, George’s friend David Premiss comes to visit and flirts – though not seriously – with all three women.

The small-town atmosphere was nice, I enjoyed reading the descriptions of the natural setting and some class differences were conveyed in an understated way but this one failed to really engage me. Possibly I couldn’t connect with the characters. I thought George and his mother, Mrs. Curle, were underdeveloped and Nettle remains just a shy man with an unattainable crush. Pauline comes off as your typical sulky, self-involved teenager though her mother sees her as an accident waiting to happen. Happily, there’s no punishment for her for just being a silly teenager. Olivia and Eleanor were nicely distinguished and Premiss was interesting because he was a little infuriating. The book does form a sonata-like structure – the first theme is Nettle, various developments occur though the theme stays the same, then this gives way to a second theme, Premiss, where developments are all his little flirtations with small variations. In the end, the first theme returns, in a slightly different key. ( )
  DieFledermaus | Mar 13, 2012 |
The only novel by a writer who died tragically young by her own hand. Described by a contemporary as "a precise and perfect work of art", but I don't find myself wholly in agreement with that assessment.

It's a bleak work in many ways, concentrating on "the loneliness of the human condition" - words from the blurb on Virago's edition which sum the novel up well. I can't empathise with any of the characters even though their isolation is painted so vividly and the consequences all too apparent. The weather, and the appearance of the isolated English village in which the novel is set, are a continuing negative theme in the novel's telling. Many of the characters appear badly affected by the onset of autumn and winter and the colours of the sky, the trees and the light are described again and again in ways which are rarely uplifting. Even when it appears that the scenery is beautiful, it is clear that few of the characters are in a position to appreciate it.

The writing is precise and there's no question that this is well-crafted. But I can't help but feel that the isolation of the characters bears some strong relation to the author's own unhappy experience of the world.

Not a book to read if you're feeling down, but worth discovering when you can cope with its bleakness. ( )
  kevinashley | Dec 13, 2011 |
“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. ( )
2 vote FleurinherWorld | Dec 30, 2010 |
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It was a beautifully fine day; the sun shone and it was warm.
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From the back cover: "He was oppressed with a feeling of uncertainty. He could see vividly Olivia's dark eyes looking up at him, only now in the cold daylight he could not be sure what it was they urged him to do"

Mr Arnold Nettle, a shy young telegraph clerk, arrives in a secluded English village as summer ends. Through the post-office window he sees a beautiful woman, Olivia, walk past and her appearance seems to herald a new hope for his life. Then her confident, secure family invite him to their home to play his cello and gently, inevitably, he finds himself falling in love. But with the slow approach of spring we see Mr Nettle's fragile hopes, just as gently fade away. First published in 1928, this, Dorothy Edwards only novel, musically interweaves her major theme - the loneliness of the human condition - with a subtle look at its consequences. Atmospheric, it is, as David Garnett said, "a precise and perfect work of art".
Dorothy Edwards (1903-1934), born in Glamorgan, Wales, was an ardent Welsh nationalist. Although her work was acclaimed by contemporary critics including Leonard Woolf, Gerald Brenan and Raymond Mortimer, it sank into oblivion following her tragic suicide at the age of thirty-one
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Classic fiction. First published in 1928, this novel sees Dorothy Edwards delineate her contemporary class and gender boundaries with a deft hand. This edition has been introduced by Dr Claire Flay, who has recently completed a literary biography of Dorothy Edwards.… (more)

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