I just finished reading “The Winter Ghosts”, by Kate Mosse. What an extraordinary book! It talks about the things that haunt us, and how they can take over our lives. The story takes place in the France, in the areas of Toulouse and Nulle – areas that have seen tremendous bloodshed, and whole people’s obliterated.
The story revolves around “The Great War”, and Freddie Watson, an Englishman who lost his brother in the war. He doesn’t just lose his brother – he loses his sense of self,and his touchstone with reality. It takes him six years to have a total breakdown – when he turns twenty-one, the same age that his brother was when he died.
Freddie never is able to maintain a normal life. He has lost any connection to anything other than his brother. It doesn’t help that he also has a total disconnect with his parents – and always has had. He constantly teeters on the brink of losing his sanity, but still continues to look for a resolution to his brother’s death, as no body was returned. (His brother’s entire unit, with the exception of one man, was killed).
In the winter of 1928, Freddie finds himself travelling through southern France – again on the search for resolution to his brother’s death. I the stormy weather he ends up in an accident, and finds himself taking refuge in the isolated village of Nulle.
As Freddie regains consciousness, he begins to hear the whispering in the hills – “I am the last, the last, the last …” “The others have slipped away into darkness.” He wanders into the village, and books a room. That night he attends the village celebration for “la fete de Saint-Etienne”, and meets he lovely Fabrissa.
Freddie and Fabrissa spend the night sharing their stories with each other (both stories are of mourning – he for his brother, she for her people). In the morning, he finds that he may not have actually attended the fete. Or did he?
A haunted village, religious wars, individual courage, a mysterious note in an ancient tongue – all of these come together to make this book an incredible journey!
© November 2009 Bonnie Cehovet