Patrick Gale’s novel, A Place Called Winter, is set during the early 20th century, concluding shortly after World War One comes to a close. It tells the tale of Harry Cane, who emigrates from England to Canada.
That’s a name which sounds familiar to modern football fans. It has, of course, been chanted from terraces across England and beyond over the last couple of football seasons. Near namesake, Harry Kane, is a star of Tottenham Hotspur and the England national team.
The character Harry Cane
Harry Cane, the protagonist in Gale’s tale, is also a gentleman from London.
A property heir with a stammer, Cane marries. His wife, Winnie, reveals that she is in love with another man during their honeymoon in Venice. She soon falls pregnant, to Cane we presume, and bears a daughter.
Gale reveals aspects of British society’s social prejudices and rituals in setting the scene of their initial meeting and courting.
A failed investment puts a degree of financial strain on the Canes. Moving back to London puts their marriage under strain and Harry enters into a homosexual affair. Homosexuality was, at that point in time, illegal in the United Kingdom.
When the affair is discovered family members put pressure on Cane to leave the country. He emigrates to Canada.
Love, death and drama
Cane comes under the spell of Troels Munck, who advises the Englishman to undertake a year of work on a settler’s farm before taking his own plot of land. Munck, ultimately, guides Cane to land in Winter, Saskatchewan.
Munck has his own reasons for suggesting Winter to Cane. Death and love result.
A Place Called Winter provides insights into the hardships faced by settlers in Canada’s West (£):
A novel set in Saskatchewan
Gale also reveals attitudes towards homosexuality in the United Kingdom and Canada in this story, which gains traction and tension once Cane has crossed the Atlantic.
He also brings readers to think about how women and First Nations people were regarded a century or so ago.
Dramatic in places and thought-provoking, A Place Called Winter concludes with a twist.
Due to the seemingly never-ending highway that cuts east-west through the prairies, Saskatchewan, unfairly, has a reputation for being flat and boring. By no means everything in the province is—certainly not this work.
Title: A Place Called Winter
Author: Patrick Gale
Publisher: Tinder Press