The Winter House – Nicci Gerrard

Title – The Winter House

Author – Nicci Gerrard

Publication – 2009 (paperback)

Genre – Contemporary fiction

I have long been a fan of Nicci French (Nicci Gerrard & Sean French) and despite being told by a bookseller that I would be unlikely to enjoy the books by Nicci Gerrard on her own I took the risk – and was rewarded with this gem.

When Marnie receives a phone call that summons her to the side of a once-beloved friend, she is wrenched from her orderly London life and sent back into a past from which she has fled but never escaped. Ralph, Marnie and Oliver once knew each other well and are still inextricably bound by ties of love and betrayal. Now they meet again in Ralph’s secluded cottage in the Scottish highlands, to spend the precious days that Ralph has left with each other. As they reminisce, Marnie is taken back to the summer years ago when everything changed between them and heartbreak and desire broke up their little group. Will Ralph have the chance to say what needs to be said before it’s too late? And can they put the devastating events of twenty years ago to rest and rekindle the intimacy they once shared?

The story is contemporary and follows forty-something Marnie as she is called to Scotland to the bedside of a dying friend. The story of the friendship is told as Marnie talks to Ralph while he lays bedridden and throught Ralph’s thoughts we hear his perception of the events. Over a few days you find out how they met in their teens and their subsequent relationship. What I particularly enjoyed was Nicci Gerrard’s language – she has a real way with descriptions – I could picture exactly the settings she described – the sights and sounds and smells, but the descriptive passages never got in the way of the story. Although not a mystery in the conventional sense, the writing style did make you feel as if there would be an important clue just over the next page – so while this was more about a relationship than a clue it made the book a real page-turner. I found the subject quite thought-provoking¬†and it has made me think about the relationships I had in my teenage years. Although the subject is very dark and I did end up dabbing my eyes on the train, I loved this book and couldn’t put it down.

Score – 4/5

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