The Place called winter is Canada, early 1900’s. Harry Cane has started his own farm on the uninhabitable, harsh and unexploited Canadian land. A career move that caught him by surprise. Harry used to be a wealthy heir who could spend his days in leisure, riding horse, reading, playing with his young daughter and with his male lover. That’s where things go wrong for Harry. His in-laws force him to leave London and start a new life in Canada, as a farmer. Not having a clue how to actually be a farmer Harry finds himself lucky to meet Troels Munck, an experienced Canadian who helps him. First by getting him to learn farming as an apprentice, next by helping him acquire a good piece of land. Munck naturally has his own motives for helping Harry, both financially and personally.
At the start of the novel we find Harry in a therapeutic home, being just released from a severe psychiatric clinic where he has been treated with the gruesome means of those days. In the home they try and find why he was placed in the psychiatric ward in the first place. From then on the novel splits in two: one part looks back on the past, the other on his stay in the home. We are taken back to Harry’s youth, his decision to marry, his discovery that he sexually prefers men, going to Canada, starting to farm his own land and meeting Petra and Paul Slaymakers, who are going to be best friends and family. We are also given an insight into a new therapeutic method of curing the mentally ill: with patience and good care.
A Place Called Winter may seem a novel about the hardships early Canadian farmers had to endure, it may also seem to be a novel about gay men not being able to be honest about their relationships. I found A Place Called Winter mostly to be a novel about finding yourself and about the right to choose your own path. Petra who is not allowed to go and study for being a woman, Winnie Cane who is not allowed to marry her true love for not being of the correct social standing and therefore makes do with Harry, Munck who bullies his way around Canada and is desperate to be seen, Ursula / Little Bear the Indian shaman who is forced into western ways and naturally Harry, the gentleman of leisure. He has never been motivated to think about his life, when finally forced he discovers not only that he likes farming but foremost that he is a strong capable person.
A Place Called Winter makes you think about injustice, in the past and now. The novel is structured well in a way that supports the plot expertly. Only at the very end Gale seems to be at a loss. He hurries along the final events thereby turning them slightly over the top, almost chicklit-like. I did like A Place Called Winter very much, as far as I am concerned it is not the masterpiece however fellow bloggers have made it out to be, just very good.