A lonely woman is torn between the bonds of family and the potential of new love in this moving novel from the author of A Wrinkle in Time. Caught somewhere between love, hate, and indifference, Emily Bowen’s marriage is hanging on by a thread. After being let go from his job, her husband pulled away from her, and the distance continues to grow during their family’s sabbatical in Switzerland. With their relationship as cold as the wind baying outside, Emily finds unexpected warmth in a man from her past. As she contemplates seizing the connection she’s been craving, Emily must decide if she’s willing to sacrifice the life she’s built for an unseen future. Poignant and powerful, this is a timeless tale of the turmoil that comes with falling in—and out—of love, and “a convincing story of mixed loyalties and divided affections” ( Kirkus Reviews ).
|Publisher:||Open Road Integrated Media LLC|
|Product dimensions:||5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.70(d)|
About the Author
Madeleine L’Engle (1918–2007) was an American author of more than sixty books, including novels for children and adults, poetry, and religious meditations. Her best-known work, A Wrinkle in Time , one of the most beloved young adult books of the twentieth century and a Newbery Medal winner, has sold more than fourteen million copies since its publication in 1962. Her other novels include A Wind in the Door , A Swiftly Tilting Planet , and A Ring of Endless Light. Born in New York City, L’Engle graduated from Smith College and worked in theater, where she met her husband, actor Hugh Franklin. L’Engle documented her marriage and family life in the four-book autobiographical series, the Crosswicks Journals. She also served as librarian and writer-in-residence at the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine in Manhattan for more than thirty years.
Date of Birth:January 12, 1918
Date of Death:September 6, 2007
Place of Birth:New York, NY
Place of Death:Litchfield, CT
Education:Smith College, 1941
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A Winter's Love
By Madeleine L'Engle
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1957 Crosswicks, Ltd.
All rights reserved.
Abraham K. Fielding
What is the K for?
There he was; she could see him from where she stood at the window of the sleeping house, see him walking quickly up the icy alley that climbed from the straggling outskirts of the village past the villa, past the big winter sports hotel, past the sanatorium, up to the scattering of chalets beyond. Where was he going?
He turned once and looked back towards the small villa where she stood at the window, an eiderdown clutched about her nightgown and bathrobe. She moved quickly aside as though he could see her through the dark cold pane of glass, then looked out again as he turned from the villa and continued up the path. Once she could see him slip and almost fall as his hobnailed boots failed to catch on the icy surface. Beside him on the snow moved his shadow long and wavering, cast by the waning moon. Then he disappeared around the corner but still she stood there at the window. The moon was small and its light seemed old and feeble, paler than the luminous snow on the peaks of the mountains, more muted than the points of stars piercing through the cold sky. She could not see a cloud, only black sky and moon and stars and snow and shadows.
She turned sharply from the window.
"What are you doing?"
Somewhere outdoors an invisible dog bayed, the angry, lonely sound echoing against the mountains, breaking into pieces and repeating, repeating, repeating....
"I couldn't sleep," she said. "Sorry, Court, I didn't mean to wake you."
His voice was muffled by sleep and blankets. "Get back into bed. You'll get pneumonia."
"I'm sorry, darling," she said. She unwrapped the eiderdown from her body and very carefully covered the small washbasin in the corner.
"I hope the pipes won't be frozen in the morning," Courtney said.
She climbed into bed beside him, still in her bathrobe, because she was shivering now, and her feet in spite of the woolly slippers she had worn felt like lumps of ice. She rubbed one cold foot against the calf of her leg. "I wasn't up long enough. Nothing'll be frozen in the morning except the ink. And that thaws."
"What time is it?" Courtney asked, his head still burrowed under the covers.
She raised up to look at the traveling clock with the luminous dial on the bureau. "Two o'clock."
Courtney made a muffled, sleepy noise, half grunt, half groan.
She rolled over so that she lay closer to him and put her arm about him. "I'm terribly sorry I disturbed you. Go back to sleep."
"Um." Then, a moment later, "Why were you up? Anything wrong?"
"No," she denied quickly. "Just wakeful."
They were silent again and after a moment she could hear the deep, regular breathing that meant he was sleeping. Then she raised herself and leaned, shivering, on her elbow, staring down at him, trying to see his face, but it was only a darker shadow on the shadow of the pillow. But she continued to stare down as though she could see, staring and wondering, wondering what it was she felt about the man who lay there, what beyond the habit of love. It was a deeply ingrained habit and there was nothing to have changed it, but she stared with a sort of horror as though daylight would reveal a stranger. It was not the first time that this had happened, but almost always at night, almost always when he was asleep and she, in the early morning hours, was awake; and she would look down at the vulnerable sleeping face, wondering if what she felt was love or hate, or worst of all, indifference.
She lay down again, shivering, and put her arm tentatively about him, waiting to see what she would feel, and the hard warmth of him was reassuring. — You're part of my life, she told him silently. Everything about us is too intricately entwined for me to be completely a separate person any longer.
Courtney shifted slightly under the weight of her arm, and she moved, reaching out with her toes for the copper hot-water bottle filled with boiling water each night. When she found it the protective towelling had come off, but the bottle was only faintly warm.
— I will make everything be all right, she said silently. I will make it.
In the cold night air the house creaked. The wind slapped against the windows, subsided. Across the hall her four-year-old daughter, her baby, cried out in her sleep. Emily raised her head, listening, suddenly tense, but the sound was not repeated and she lay down again.
— Oh, Connie. Oh, Connie, be all right.
She lay there listening. In the other bedroom no sound from Virginia, home from school for the Christmas holidays and worn out from a long day's skiing, or from Mimi Oppenheimer, spending the holidays with her. Sometimes Mimi snored but tonight there was just the creaking of the house in the frozen air and the wild cold baying of the dogs as they roamed the sleeping streets. And the clocks ticking, Virginia's battered alarm clock louder than the travelling clock just across the room. As she lay there listening, Emily thought she could hear strains of music drifting down from the big hotel. Perhaps they were still dancing there, and had Abe gone for a moment into the ballroom or stopped in the steamy warmth of the lounge to talk, or had he gone straight to his room? And where had he been in the village? At the casino, perhaps, losing a few francs at rouge et noir, or perhaps he had simply gone into the Splendide for a drink....
Now Mimi began to snore, gently, contentedly,' funny clumsy Mimi Opp who was both so good and so bad for Virginia. ... And then voices, voices on the icy path, a happy, slightly drunken group returning to the hotel from the village. They were singing. Chevaliers de la table ronde, goûtons voir si le vin est bon. American accents, though. She remembered learning that song in college, brought back to the dormitory by two girls who'd spent their junior year in France. A gay, foolish song, wonderful after a couple of drinks or a few rounds of beer. She felt faintly envious of the group singing it now, accents faulty, words not quite right, but completely uninhibited and happy.
"Please be quiet," Courtney murmured in his sleep, not even half-awakened by the song but nevertheless reacting to it.
The song began to fade as the revellers climbed upwards, and in a moment was lost in the faint strains of music from the hotel. Emily lay there under the covers and gradually warmth began to return to her feet and her fingers. And as warmth came back to her body her mind slipped imperceptibly from its cold wakefulness into the comfort of sleep.
When she wakened she was cold again; the covers were half off and the cold air lay heavier than blankets against her flesh. It was dark in the room, not even moonlight now coming in the window, only a pale glimmer from stars and snow. She had to look at the clock to see that it was morning, almost six. She slipped out of bed and, shivering violently, dressed, quickly pulling on black ski trousers and a heavy red sweater. Over her wool ski socks she put on an incongruous pair of battered ballet slippers.
She ran downstairs, turned on the light in the hall, and went down to the cellar to shake up the furnace and put on more coal. Up in the hall again she turned off the light and padded softly towards the front door, stepping over scarves that had slithered from hooks, brushing against the sheepskin lining of Mimi's jacket, tripping over Virginia's ski boots.
— Damn, she thought, I'll wake the whole house.
She stood still to listen, but there was no sound from upstairs, and she bent down to pick up Connie's soiled pink teddy bear, left overnight in the hall, reached for Mimi's ski jacket, the first one her hand touched, and pulled it about her. She opened the front door, still clutching the teddy bear, and stepped out; in the sky the stars were still piercingly bright. She looked across the small white patch that might in spring be a garden, through the iron fence and up a white slope to Pedroti's Grand Hôtel Des Alpes crouched at the foot of the mountain, the hotel grounds separated from the villa's small garden only by the iron fence. At the hotel at least there was some indication that morning was approaching; in the servants' quarters high up under the eaves lights were burning, and again in the kitchen and in the proprietress' apartments on the first floor. Several of the guests' windows were lighted, too, vacationers rising early for skiing expeditions or perhaps a little climbing. Was Abe going skiing?
Up above the hotel there were lights on in the tuberculosis sanatorium, too; behind the sanatorium the mountains heaved up into the sky; there was still no faint line of light to outline the irregular peaks. The cold pressed against her chest in spite of the warmth of Mimi's jacket, the kind of cold one might feel on the outer planets, far from the sustaining warmth of the parent sun; she retreated into the house and went into the kitchen to make coffee.
On the back of the old coal stove was a kettle she had filled the night before, and the water in it was piping hot. She put the pink teddy bear on a chair (how had Connie gone to bed without it?), shook up the coals and held her hands over their living warmth. While she was measuring the coffee she heard footsteps, and there was Mimi standing in the doorway, wearing a heavy scarlet robe and enormous fuzzy red slippers. Her face was still rosy with sleep and there was a crease across one cheek where the pillow had pressed into it.
"Hello, Mrs. Bowen," Mimi said, "shall I go down and jiggle the furnace or anything?"
"No, thanks, Mimi, I've done it," Emily answered, thinking that if Mimi tried to tend to the furnace she would probably set fire to the house, if she didn't blow it up entirely. In spite of the grace with which the child moved her body she was singularly helpless when it came to any kind of household task.
"Well, may I have some coffee with you then?"
"Of course. Do you want to get the cups?"
Mimi opened the cupboard over the sink and took two saucers down from the top shelf. At sixteen she was almost six feet tall and she barely had to stretch. "These are the prettiest cups and saucers —" she said, "these up here. Is it all right if we use them?"
"Why not?" Emily asked. "As long as Connie doesn't get hold of them. She still breaks things very easily, and these are some Gertrude de Croisenois let me take from her chalet." She filled a saucepan with milk and put it on the back of the stove.
"And Virginia, too," Mimi said. "I don't think Virginia should consider making a profession of dishwashing. Though I suppose I shouldn't talk."
The smell of coffee began to pervade the kitchen, warm and comforting. "Do you know, Mrs. Bowen," Mimi said, looking earnestly at the cup she was holding, "I admire Gertrude — Madame de Croisenois — quite passionately."
Emily turned away so as not to smile at Mimi's childish intensity, very unlike the Mimi who seemed so sophisticated to Virginia. Emily liked this early-morning Mimi; there was about her a wistful quality that had not been apparent before.
"You're very good friends, you and Madame de Croisenois, aren't you?"
"Yes, Mimi. I guess we are."
"Mrs. Bowen," Mimi said, still studying the empty cup, "it means a great deal for me to be here with you this Christmas."
"We're happy to have you with us, Mimi," Emily said automatically, sorry that her own shyness kept her from saying any but the conventional words.
"I've never been in a real family before. I mean, I adore my mother and father absolutely passionately, but you can hardly call it a normal family life. I mean Jake's always off on tour and when Clare comes back from the lab sometimes she positively stinks of chemicals."
Emily gently took away the cup Mimi was turning between her large, strong, and well-cared for fingers, half-filled it with coffee, then poured in hot milk.
"There's sugar on the table by you, Mimi," she said.
— Is Abe up yet? she wondered — drinking coffee in his hotel room? Or is he in the enormous hotel dining room with his son, Sam?
Mimi helped herself liberally to sugar, then pushed her fingers through her mop of rather violently blond hair that was now in an early morning mass of untidy curls about her face. "It's really a very pleasant smell to me," she said, "the stink of chemicals. Virginia and I were listing once the things that reminded us of our parents, and when she was doing you the most important thing was your smell, Yardley's lavender soap and Coty's Chypre. Isn't that a lovely thing to be remembered by, Mrs. Bowen?"
"Horrors, Mimi, you make me sound as though I were dead and gone," Emily said lightly.
"As for my mother's smell," Mimi said, drinking down her coffee, "she uses perfume, of course, Gênet Fleuri, as a matter of fact, which is really quite divine, but when I think of her smell it's much more apt to be the rotten-egg smell of hydrogen sulphide and a sort of pervasive odor of Bunsen burner. Oh, and garlic. Clare and Jake both eat an inordinate amount of garlic."
Emily laughed. "How about your father?" she asked. "What's his distinctive odor?"
"Shaving soap and scotch whiskey. And the resin he uses on the bow of his violin. May I have some more coffee, please?"
"One more cup," Emily said, "but that's all, because even though this is a big pot it has to do the rest of the family for breakfast and even Connie likes a little coffee in her warm milk." She put rolls in the oven to warm and brought out the oatmeal she had started the night before and left in the double boiler on the back of the stove.
After a moment Mimi asked, "Can I help? I'm sorry. I should have asked before."
"You can set the table if you like."
"I'd rather sit here and talk to you," Mimi said, "but I feel I should make myself useful." Emily smiled but said nothing as Mimi stood up and went into the dining room. She had been gone only a moment, when, holding a fistful of knives and spoons, she reappeared and stood in front of Emily. "You know, Mrs. Bowen, it's a funny thing: this is only a rented house and, let's face it, quite an ugly one, but somehow you've made it like a home. I've only been here three days but somehow I feel completely at home. And Virginia! What a change there has been in Virginia!"
"What do you mean?" Emily asked quickly.
At once Mimi's candid eyes became guarded. "Oh, Virginia can be a bit tense sometimes." And she went back to the dining room.
Virginia at this point came bounding in and flung her arms around Emily — Virginia over a year younger than Mimi, and paper-thin. "Good morning! Good morning, darling mother! Oh, it's so wonderful to be home! The stars are out so it'll be a nice day. May we go skating?"
"I don't see why not," Emily said, laughing and kissing her. "Good morning, darling. Go on in the dining room and help Mimi set the table."
"Mimi's been having coffee with you!" Virginia cried. "Miriam Oppenheimer, and you didn't even get dressed! No fair!"
"I'll go get dressed now," Mimi said from the doorway. "Table's all set."
Emily straightened the neck of Virginia's sweater. "Connie awake yet?"
"Yes. She's in bed with daddy."
"All right, I'll go rout them both out. Give the oatmeal a stir for me please."
Virginia gave her mother another hug. "Were you out watching the stars this morning?"
"For a few minutes."
"Oh, mother, what a one you are for looking at stars! Remember how you always used to fuss in New York because the city lights almost blanked them out? Mother, what's daddy writing?"
"At the moment? He's writing a paper."
"Who was he? Another early Greek philosopher?"
"Yes. An astronomer and geometrician. The first evolutionist, your father says."
"He taught that there was one universal substance, I believe, and opposing stresses of unity and opposites."
"No, I mean about daddy. Is he going to stop teaching and be a writer? After this winter what are we going to do?"
"I don't know, darling. Let's just worry about this winter and not go any further."
"But I can't help wondering."
"Well, as long as daddy's happy here with his writing, we'll probably stay. After that I don't know. Maybe the college in Indiana. Now stir that porridge for me, you little fiend. I've got to go get daddy and Connie up." She put the back of her hand for a moment against Virginia's thin, freckled cheek. "You'd better have two helpings of porridge," she said. "You're much too thin." She turned and went upstairs.
In the bedroom Courtney lay on his back with Connie curled sleepily beside him in the half-circle of his arm. Emily saw that he was staring at the light fixture on the ceiling.
Excerpted from A Winter's Love by Madeleine L'Engle. Copyright © 1957 Crosswicks, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I received a free electronic copy of this novel from Netgalley, the family of Madeleine L'Engle, and Open Road Publishing in exchange for an honest review. This novel was formerly published in 1984 by Ballantine Books. Thank you all, for sharing your hard work with me. This ebook contains a biography of Madeleine L'Engle's life and rare photos from her estate. An interesting an well-defined look at the moral and religious approaches to relationships, dated only by the lack of cell phones. I found this novel delightful despite or perhaps because of the social lessons contained within. The biographical information concerning the author is extensive and very touching.
Although an early work by L'Engle, the writing is still beautiful. Some of the characters in this story show up in some of her later works. This is a story of love and conflict and morality. Emily has a tough choice to make and much time is spent examining her feelings. The story flowed well and the characters were interesting. This story is being republished as I understand it was out of print and difficult to find. I wanted to read it because I loved L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time. Thanks to Open Road Integrated Media through NetGalley for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.
I read this book with conflicted feelings: on the one hand, I was impressed by what a talented and insightful writer L'Engle was even so early in her career, and on the other, compared with her later works, it's clear here that L'Engle hadn't quite hit her stride. What for another writer would be a magnum opus, is for L'Engle a mere test of the pen. Almost all the things that would make "A Wrinkle in Time" and later works so outstanding are present here, but still only in semi-developed form. It's the 1950s (the book was released in 1957) and the Bowen family is overwintering in the French Alps. It should have been a fun holiday while Courtney, the husband, is on sabbatical, but instead he has lost his teaching job and is trying to get some writing done while wrestling with the decision of whether or not to accept the one job offer he has received, and move the whole family from New York City to small-town Indiana. Meanwhile, Emily, the main viewpoint character, who is Courtney's wife and more than ten years his junior, is wrestling with her own attraction to an old family friend, who is also overwintering with his teenage son in the same town. Everyone is trying to watch out for Gertrude, an American woman and a hero of the resistance, whose health was ruined in the camps. The setting is marvelously realized, and feels both real and charmingly vintage. The characters bathe in a hip-bath in the kitchen, use hot water bottles instead of central heating, and only have one phone, which hangs from the wall. This may have been particularly striking to me because I originally thought this was a more recent release and I was struggling to place the period details, but in any case the book feels very naturally and authentically 50s, which is either a plus or a minus, depending on your point of view. WWII is still very much on everyone's minds, with Gertrude and her camp tattoo, Madame Peridot's history of collaborating with the occupiers, and the disagreement explodes between the young people over the discovery that one of them is technically Jewish. That particular facet of the story feels peculiarly quaint, and yet...not. The racism and prejudice the characters are trying to confront are still very much in evidence today, sixty years later. The relationships within and between the characters are where L'Engle's magic is most clearly evident. Everyone is conflicted, everyone is questing, everyone is well-intentioned and striving to understand the universe and their place in it. This could be tedious or preachy, but L'Engle makes everyone sympathetic and well-rounded, especially in the interactions between mothers and daughters. Although Emily and her daughter Virginia are not just early prototypes for Meg Murry of "A Wrinkle in Time" and her relationships with her own mother and then later with her daughter Poly, the richness and delicacy is already there, as is the emphasis on women as having thoughts, feelings, and stories of their own. I have to admit that I didn't like Emily and Virginia *as much* as I did the protagonists of the later, YA books, and the plot lacks some of the same urgency, not to mention the presence of magic, but "A Winter's Love" is definitely worth reading for anyone interested in L'Engle's work, or anyone who just wants to curl up with something warm and read about a chilly winter and an impossible love in the Alps. My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing a review copy of this book. Opinions my own