In many ways, winter is an ideal setting for a story. Stark landscapes of vast white nothingness, silence punctured by the occasional chirp of a bird or a distant train whistle, and the sense of time standing still provide a fitting backdrop for tales of sorrow, solitude, suspense and ennui. Here are five fiction selections where the season and landscape of winter figure prominently in the narrative.
A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrich
In rural Wisconsin in the winter 1907, a rich, middle-aged widower awaits the woman who answered his newspaper personals ad to be his new wife. Quiet, austere Catherine Land arrives from Chicago. Not what she seems, long-alone Ralph appears blind to her true intentions. The isolation imposed by winter and geography add to the mystery of this peculiar novel that is reminiscent of Daphne DuMaurier’s Rebecca.
The Frozen Thames by Helen Humphries
This collection of vignettes artfully imagines real events that took place on London’s River Thames. Taking the reader through 700 years of British history, stories include well-known figures like Henry the VIII and also the anonymous individuals who lived, loved, worked and sometimes died by the river.
Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata
During a Tokyo gentleman’s visit to a hot springs in the remote mountains of western Japan, he and a local geisha engage in a passionate, rocky, ultimately sad affair. This is one of several emotionally powerful works that helped earned Kawabata the 1968 Nobel Prize for Literature.
Italian Shoes by Henning Mankell
A once-successful surgeon lives in stagnant isolation on a remote island in Sweden, having abandoned his life in the city due to a tragic mistake. When the lost love of his youth suddenly shows up, he is faced with the prospect of renewal and redemption.
Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
A compelling novella set in the early 1900s, Ethan Frome tells the tale of its eponymous protagonist, a taciturn, duty-bound man who cares for his sickly wife on their small farm. The couple takes in a live-in helper, and Ethan soon falls for the vibrant young woman. The barren, bleak landscape of the rural New England countryside contributes to the somber mood of this tragic story.
For more reading ideas, view this list of novels, poetry and other works set in winter, and also visit the 8th floor display of Winter Novels and Nonfiction at the Central Library through December.