Winter by Christopher Nicholson Reviewed by Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge

Winter by Christopher Nicholson; Europa Editions, 2015. 269 pages; $17.00 (paperback); reading level: adult.

Novels about famous writers are in vogue just now. This one, narrowly focused on the last four years of the life of British novelist/poet Thomas Hardy (1840-1928), rises to the top of the stack. When a stage version of Hardy’s novel, Tess of the d’Ubervilles, is performed by a local theater group in the small English town where he lives, Hardy (age 84) develops a crush on leading-lady Gertrude (in her twenties) driving his second wife Florence (age 45) into a fit of jealousy. Through chapters that alternate among the viewpoints of the three, we follow Florence’s vengeful machinations, Gertrude’s struggle between ambition and loyalty to family, and Hardy’s conviction that those around him should do whatever is necessary to accommodate his writing. Nicholson manages to keep three balls in the air at once: In a lush style that convincingly echoes Hardy’s own, he constructs a compelling plot, while deftly probing his characters’ minds and motivations. The result is masterful and haunting.

Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge, Author

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