Top Ten Tuesday is was created by The Broke and the Bookish, and is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. It’s all about books, lists and sharing the love we have of both with our bookish friends. This week, we’re looking at the best wintry reads…
I don’t really do seasonal reading these days: I just read what I fancy when I fancy it. I thought about making this a top ten of books set in cold places (I have a soft spot for stories set in the (Ant)arctic), but then I noticed how many of the books I loved growing up were set in midwinter. I make no apology for Past Me’s tastes or blind spots; not least because I don’t really remember some of these – but I liked them enough to keep them all these years anyway.
The Dark is Rising – Susan Cooper
This classic requires no apology – it’s still a firm favourite, and The Dark is Rising itself is a chilling midwinter read. It makes the season as magical as it is threatening as young Will comes of age and discovers he is an Old One with a duty to seek the Signs and keep them from the Dark.
The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – C S Lewis
Yes, it’s trying to sneak-feed Christianity as fantasy, but there’s such charm in Narnia where it’s always winter but never Christmas. Between Mr Tumnus and the Beavers and my ever-beloved White Witch, I can forgive a lot. And considering how many times I’ve read it and how I’ve turned out, apparently the Christian messages were just too subtle anyway. Or something.
The Silver Brumby – Elyne Mitchell
You mightn’t expect a book about Australian horses to feature snow, but you’d be wrong. Turns out they’re called the Snowy Mountains for a reason! Snow adds to Thowra’s silver-coated mystique as well as being a genuine threat to the herd’s survival in the perfect book for any horse-lover.
The Box of Delights – John Masefield
“The wolves are running, Master Harker” – and now I’ve got goosebumps, even though the quote is the only thing I remember about the book. There’s a box, I assume. And heroic Master Harker. And maybe a talking cat? And wolves in the snow. Brrrr. I really should reread this – it’s still on my shelf!
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase – Joan Aiken
I half-suspect that this book is the actual reason ‘the wolves are running’ gives me the shivers. Two cousins must rescue their home (and themselves) from a wicked governess and her wolves in midwinter – sadly, there’s no Dido Twite to help them, but I still recall the first novel of Aiken’s alternate history fondly.
In The Grip of Winter – Colin Dann
I loved the Farthing Wood books as a kid. It’s only as an adult I look back and thing ‘…woah’ because they make Watership Down look downright fluffy. This second volume does a great job of making winter itself the enemy as the animals struggle to survive the cold in their new home at White Deer Park.
Winter Holiday – Arthur Ransome
The Swallows & Amazons books captivated me, even though I’d never been to the Lake District, or gone camping, or even set foot in a boat. I read them all out of order, and it didn’t matter, charmed by the kids and their imaginative explorations. Here, a frozen Lake Windermere stands in for the Pole as two city geeks are adopted by the Swallows and taught to be Arctic Explorers.
Once I hit teenage, winter had been replaced by Ice Ages: yes, I got sucked into The Clan of the Cave Bear (although Jean M Auel took so long to write them that I grew up and lost my taste for interminable travelogues and absurd sex scenes long before she finished the series), which led me in turn to W Michael Gear and Kathleen O’Neal Gear’s People of the Wolf. I think I’d find both series problematic now: meticulously researched, maybe, but badly paced and from what I recall also very rapey. I don’t even recall that much about Michael Scott Rohan’s The Anvil of Ice – a fantasy trilogy I read at university, which featured a heroic young blacksmith trying to fend off an Ice Age. All in all, my childhood reading left far more of a mark!
Do you have any favourite midwinter reads?