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The Winter Ghosts by Kate Mosse
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The Winter Ghosts (2009)

by Kate Mosse

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1,0059513,188 (3.29)89
Freddie Watson is a stilted young man who has not gotten over older brother George's disappearance on the Western Front during WWI. It is now 10 years since the Armistice, and Freddie, after a stay in a mental institution, has come to the French Pyrenees to find peace. While motoring through a snowstorm, he crashes his car and ends up in the small village of Nulle, where he meets a beautiful young woman named Fabrissa. In the course of an evening, Fabrissa tells Freddie a story of persecution, resistance, and death, hinting at a long-buried secret. By the next morning, she is gone, leaving Freddie alone to unlock a ghostly mystery hidden for 600 years.… (more)
  1. 00
    Montaillou : Cathars and Catholics in a French village, 1294-1324 by Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie (SJaneDoe)
  2. 00
    Rora by James Byron Huggins (countrylife)
    countrylife: Historical fiction also about religious persecution & the inquisition, Rora is a much longer book, and recounts the story of the Waldenses and their defense of their homes and territory against the inquisition's army.
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Showing 1-5 of 95 (next | show all)
The story is lovely and romantic, and will not appeal to someone seeking action. That said, if you enjoy a ghost story encased in a human's process of dealing with grief, this should work for you.

I found the midi music included as transitions in the audiobook to be too melodramatic for my tastes. ( )
  Muhrrynn | Jul 11, 2019 |
Another good read from Kate Mosse. Staying with the familiar themes surrounding the historical religious genocides in 14th century France, she has cleverly woven together a tale of grief, war, loss and personal discovery. I could have finished it much sooner but wanted to savour each word.
  peelap | Feb 3, 2019 |
‘’Bones and shadows and dust. I am the last. The others have slipped away into darkness. Around me now, at the end of my days, only an echo in the still air of the memory of those who once I loved. Solitude, silence.’’

Kate Mosse is one those writers that I trust completely. I’d choose one of her books without reading the blurb or a single review without reservations. Although I’ve never read the Languedoc trilogy because I’ve been spoiled to the degree of knowing every single detail, ‘’The Taxidermist’s Daughter’’ is a novel very close to my heart. Choosing ‘’The Winter Ghosts’’ as one of my wintry reads was a no-brainer and what a journey it proved to be!

The story is simple but fascinating. We find ourselves in 1933 when our hero, Freddie, visits a special bookseller. Through his narration, we are transported in 1928, the year when Freddie visits the French Pyrenees in an attempt to spend some time with his thoughts while he’s still trying to recover from his brother’s fall during the Great War. One night, he decides to attend the feast of St. Etienne, a day that carries special connotations for the residents of the village, and he meets an alluring young woman. The events that follow are stunning and exciting.

‘’Sunshine and shadows’’

Where to begin? How to contain in a single, inadequate review the wealth that is hidden in this beautiful, haunting tale? Mosse uses so many ingredients to create a marvellous novel. First of all, the richness of the natural environment that becomes a character in itself. The Spanish slopes become a symbol of light while the French side of the legendary mountains symbolize the darkness that has fallen over the lives of the residents. Even the shops and the streets are tokens of a weird, heavy feeling of sadness. The snow, the wind that carries voices through the storm, the caves, the fire, the sound of laughter and weeping. Beautiful, haunting real-life photos make the reading experience even more immediate and realistic.

‘’I do not fear death. But I fear the forgetting.’’

Through the frozen landscape, we have the people. The living and the dead. Mosse writes about suffering and memory with the focus on the male character. I found this extremely refreshing since we have been used to experience similar stories through the eyes of female characters. Here, she decides to place a young man at the centre of the action and this is masterfully done. The primary question that is asked is what happens when we are faced with an untimely, tragic death? How do we go on? We remember our loved ones with fondness but what happens when we feel inadequate compared to them? What are the consequences when the shadows of the dead oppress the living? How does one feel when the possibility of death becomes an immediate certainty? There are questions that cannot be easily answered (if at all) and Mosse communicates her themes through History. She returns to France and the persecutions of the Cathars to create a haunting tale through clear, immediate, poetic writing. Beautiful descriptions, rounded characters and interactions that should be taught on every Creative Writing class.

Freddie and Fabrissa are the main characters. Freddie is a deeply engaging, sympathetic character. His dilemmas, his thoughts and fears can be related to our war-mongering society of today. He is a dreamer because the reality his parents created for him is deeply unjust. Fabrissa is the jewel of the story. We see her briefly but her mark is evident throughout the novel, bringing the aura of an era lost in time, of people who suffered because their beliefs didn’t bow down to the ones in power. The story of the Cathars has always been one of my favourite moments in Medieval History and the way Mosse brings it to focus in this novel is exceptional. I want to add a quote by Freddie here ‘’We remember so that such slaughter is never allowed to happen again.’’ Such sad words because a few years later the Second World War broke out after Hitler’s rise to power in Germany. One of the major beliefs of the Cathars was the duality of the nature and life as an eternal rebirth and transformation. Everything is repeated, a conviction similar to the Gnostic beliefs. Think of the image of a snake that bites its own tail. What evidence could be more tragic than the two Worlds Wars that reaped mankind apart?

This is a ghost story, a love story, a Historical Fiction novel of the finest kind. It rises up through the mists of the ages, through the bloody traces of History and enters the reader’s soul. You definitely want to read it…

‘’But in truth, I felt nothing. And my thoughts insisted on spiralling back to the dead sleeping in the cold earth. Shattered bones and mud and blood. The headstones and the graves, the wild and untended places between.’’

My reviews can also be found on https://theopinionatedreaderblog.wordpress.com ( )
  AmaliaGavea | Jul 15, 2018 |
Read it, finished. Giving it away ( )
  pootlesuzie | Jun 20, 2018 |
An unusual book. Set in the 1920's in a small village in France. ( )
  skraft001 | Sep 23, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 95 (next | show all)
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Epigraph
'Known unto God' Rudyard Kipling (epigraph carved on the tombstones raised to the memory of unknown soliders and airmen)
Dedication
First words
He walked like a man recently returned to the world.
Quotations
...for all its rituals grief is a solitary business.
”The dead leave their shadows, an echo of the space within which once they lived. They haunt us, never fading or growing older as we do. The loss we grieve is not just their futures but our own.”
“We are who we are because of those we choose to love and because of those who love us...”
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
Do you believe in ghosts?

In the winter of 1928, still seeking some kind of resolution to the horrors of World War I, Freddie is traveling through the beautiful but forbidding French Pyrenees. During a snowstorm, his car spins off the mountain road. Dazed, he stumbles through the woods, emerging in a tiny village, where he finds an inn to wait out the blizzard. There he meets Fabrissa, a lovely young woman also mourning a lost generation.

Over the course of one night, Fabrissa and Freddie share their stories. By the time dawn breaks, Freddie will have unearthed a tragic, centuries-old mystery, and discovered his own role in the life of this remote town.

Haiku summary
It's the feast of St
Etienne: let's eat, drink and be
Merry! - Oh, you're ghosts ...
(passion4reading)

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