Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Review: The Winter Ghosts by Kate Mosse

Title: The Winter Ghosts
Author: Kate Mosse
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Putnam
Published: 2011
Pages: 288

Rating: 4 out of 10

While driving alone at night in 1928 France, a man named Freddie gets into a car accident after he hears strange voices in the wind. In a small town nearby, a kindly woman agrees to let him stay at her inn and recover. Freddie is still mourning the loss of his brother Henry, who died years ago in World War I. Everyone else seems to have moved on and gotten over the war's tragedies, but Freddie simply cannot. When making his way to an event in town one foggy night, Freddie takes a few wrong turns and finds himself at a strange party, where he meets an intriguing, beautiful girl named Fabrissa. The two instantly develop a strong bond, but Freddie soon begins to fear that Fabrissa and her past are not at all what they seem.

This book was breezily written, and I got through it quickly. It was alright, and Kate Mosse has a very pretty way of writing; I loved her style. Her prose is excellent, and suits itself to the fairytale type of writing perfectly.

I only wish that the rest of her book followed so gracefully.

The book seemed quite childish to me, and not in a good way - in an unrealistic, raised-eyebrows sort of way. Things happened that I found very improbable, that were never tied up.

Freddie, the main character, was not one that I understood. He is still grieving for his brother Henry as if he had only passed away yesterday. Alright, but why? What is behind this? And how close of a bond did he have with his brother before the war began? The author never gives us any history whatsoever into the brother's relationship, which made Freddie come across to me as more of a psychotic boy with separation issues than a character I could sympathize with. Mosse's many descriptions of pain, of loss, and of the grief of missing someone were written beautifully, but without the power behind it, they were only pretty words that lacked depth.

Fabrissa is the only other character of major importance. She is introduced to us as stunningly beautiful, extremely perceptive, and mysterious. She seemed very intriguing, but she too lacked any depth or reality. Of course I knew her secret (or at least most of it) right from the beginning, but it still failed to make me warm to her.

Freddie and Fabrissa's meeting annoyed me. He basically falls in love with her at first sight, something that nearly always earns an eye roll from me. Only a few books have ever pulled that off, in my opinion, and this certainly isn't one of them. Within literally five minutes of first setting eyes upon each other, Freddie and Fabrissa are intimately discussing extremely personal details, and exchanging philosophies on loss, death, and other such things. It seemed highly forced to me.
About half an hour later, they are sitting alone in the snow and have now shared each other's life stories. They basically now know everything about each other and are (of course) hopelessly in love. Well, it's about time! Half an hour, gosh, no need to take things so slowly...
Freddie tells Fabrissa that he has "never met anyone else" like her.

After this, however, he wakes up and is told by everyone that he never went out last night. No one seems to know what party he is talking about, and no one has ever heard of anyone named Fabrissa. Is he crazy? I thought that this part of the book was interesting, waiting to see what Freddie would do and how he would come to a conclusion about this question.
But the conclusion wasn't exactly satisfactory. Once again, everything felt entirely forced.
Freddie goes back to his crashed car with a few other men to help. Once he gets there, he becomes convinced that Fabrissa is somewhere nearby. He convinces the other men to leave. And this is in freezing snow - and they would really just leave him? When they were saying that very day that he was not right in the head (more delicately, of course)? I don't think so.
Freddie even assures them that if he gets too cold, he'll just wait in the car to warm up. I giggled a bit. Um... If a car has been sitting broken down outside in the freezing wilderness for a few days, it is just as cold in there as it is out of it. And the doors would probably be frozen shut anyways.
However, the other men seem to see nothing suspect about a mentally unstable man urging them to leave him behind in the snow. They go merrily on their way, after which Freddie somehow seems to know that he must climb up a hill, where he finds a cave, where he finds a dress (which he again somehow knows is Fabrissa's). There was a very suspiciously high amount of "somehow knowing" going on.

At the end, many of my questions were left still unanswered. Why would Fabrissa choose to speak to Freddie, one person in 600 years? What was so special about him? The book had a lot of holes in it.

It was alright. Not very well written considering characters and plot, but the writing itself (out of context) was pretty, which saved this book a little bit.

If you are in the mood for a quick, easy read that is eerily pretty, go ahead and read this. Appreciate the writing, but try not to examine anything else too deeply.