In Mosse's wisp of a new novel (after Sepulchre), 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. This is a staunchly old-fashioned story, taking fully 100 pages to get moving, and by the time things pick up, the gist of the narrative will be obvious to anyone who has ever sat through a Twilight Zone episode. Freddie's obtuseness does little to help along a gruel-thin story. (Feb.)
“affecting novel” . . . “stark and lyrical.” --(Kate Mosse)
Kate Mosse, best known for her international bestsellers LABYRINTH and SEPULCHRE, originally published THE WINTER GHOSTS in the UK in 2009. It is now seeing release in the US, and I trust it will be embraced by fans of her work as well as those who enjoy a good historical ghostly tale. Mosse deftly weaves medieval and 20th-century stories of grief, and uses Freddie to embody the feelings of loss and eventually the enlightenment of getting past the hopelessness and isolation he has within him.
--( Reviewed by Ray Palen)
"Do you believe in ghosts?" is the provocative question posed in this classically haunting novel. Kate Mosse's story is told by Freddie Watson, a fragile man who suffered a nervous breakdown after his brother's death on a World War I battlefield.
Freddie tells his mystifying tale to an antiquarian bookseller whom he asks to translate a medieval-era parchment. What happened to Freddie in a French mountain village is inspired by a regional legend that recalls the mass murders of the Cather people in France's Languedoc region in the 14th century. Freddie's 20th-century link to the Cather tragedy will chill the blood of the most jaded mystery fan.--(Carol Memmott)
“will chill the blood of the most jaded mystery fan.”
In this spare, elegant novel, Mosse (Labyrinth Sepulchre) follows a young man as he comes to terms with a devastating personal loss. Freddie Watson's life was forever altered in 1916 by the death of his older brother George, a captain in England's Royal Sussex Regiment. He is still mourning the loss 12 years later when he travels to France, hoping that a change of scenery will offer a reprieve from his crushing sadness. When a freak snowstorm strands him in the unforgiving landscape of the Pyrenees, he finds shelter in Nulle, a small, isolated town that also seems plagued by a deep melancholy. It is there that Freddie meets the beautiful and mysterious Fabrissa, who, for her own personal reasons, understands the depth of Freddie's grief. As Freddie learns of Fabrissa's tragic history, he finally finds the courage to let go of the past. VERDICT Although Mosse's third novel isn't spooky enough to recommend to die-hard ghost story fans, finely drawn characters and an evocative setting make this a fine choice for lovers of historical and literary fiction. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 9/1/10.]—Makiia Lucier, Moscow, ID
Romantic spookery in a small village in southwest France in the 1920s, from Mosse (Sepulchre, 2008, etc.), co-founder of the Orange Prize for Fiction.
Freddie Watson is a man on a mission. Parchment manuscript in hand, he goes to a bookstore in Toulouse to find someone able to translate Occitan, the medieval language of the region, into English. From that moment unfolds a tale that had begun several years before, on which one winter's night Freddie had found himself traveling through the remote area of Occitania. Freddie's recent past had been characterized by melancholia, a condition created by his distant and unloving parents as well as by the death of his beloved older brother George the day before the first assault on the Somme. For five years after he received news of George's death, Freddie tried to repress his grief, but he finally had a mental breakdown and was hospitalized. Even in 1928 he still feels traumatized by the war that had taken his brother away. When he finds himself stranded in a remote valley, he begins to enter briefly into the life of the village (appropriately called Nulle), which is about to celebrate thefête de St. Etienne, a fixture of communal life since medieval times. At the local Ostal he meets the inscrutable and mysterious Fabrissa, a lovely, delicate woman who seems to know more about Freddie's loss than is humanly possible. Freddie is of course dazzled by this bewildering and bewitching woman, and the townspeople are mystified as well when Freddie tries to tell them about his encounter, for they know of no one named Fabrissa. A story eventually emerges about a village tragedy that had occurred in the 14th century, when Catharism was rampant in the area and the villagers had taken refuge in some local caves. Fabrissa—or her ghostly self—ultimately helps Freddie deal with his painful present and serves as a redemptive force in his life.
Mosse's prose has a gossamer quality well suited to the fantasy she spins.