Winter People by Gráinne Murphy is an emotional slow burner that really drew me in. It is a poignant, character driven story about resilience, self-forgiveness and how we use different coping mechanisms to survive the challenges of life. It is also a moving story about family, love and the soothing powers of nature.
The setting of the novel, the wild Atlantic coast of Ireland, is almost a character itself. Written in three parts, Storm, Sea, Sky, Winter People is the story of three very different people, practically unknown to each other yet loosely connected, and all lonely in their own unique way. Their emotional isolation is poignantly reflected in the setting of the story. Their struggles and inner conflicts are powerfully explored throughout the narrative.
Sis, who in my view is the true heart of the novel, is a women in her 70s, “Mid to late-seventies…from the shuffle of the footsteps.” All her life she has lived by the sea; in the same house where she grew up, where her younger sister died as a child, where she began her married life, where she raised her family, and where she buried her husband. Yet now that house, Sis’s home is being taken away from her. For me, Sis’s story is extremely powerful.
I also found Peter’s story very emotional. As a boy, Peter experienced a series of foster homes, eventually finding a loving family when he was moved to the foster care of Sheila and Noel. It was at this time in his childhood that Peter met his best friend Fintan. Now in his 40s, Peter is struggling to cope with Sheila’s dementia and Fintan’s imminent death from a terminal illness.
There is also the story of Lydia, who is struggling to come to terms with the tragic consequences of one night. It has resulted in her withdrawing from her husband, her life, her self.
Initially I found this novel quite slow, especially as the chapters are quite long (I am a big fan of short chapters), but soon I was drawn in, especially to the stories of Peter and Sis. It was their subtle yet very emotive and powerful stories that particularly moved me. As a reader I am keen to find out more about these two characters and hope that Gráinne Murphy returns to them to continue their stories.
Written with compassion, Winter People is a tender and compelling exploration of emotional survival. Published by Legend Press on 12 October 2022, it is available now for you all to read.
To read the reviews from fellow book bloggers also on the Winter People blog tour, please see below.