A Week in Winter (by Marcia Willett)

Having realised that many of Marcia Willett's novels use the same characters in minor roles in later novels, I decided to read them in sequence, as far as possible. It's been six or more years since I read most of them - not in the correct or even published order - so I'm very much enjoying revisiting them.

The first time I read 'A Week in Winter', nearly seven years ago now, I thought it a wonderful book. I rated it very highly, and recommended it enthusiastically.

So, in my re-reading of these novels, I was particularly looking forward to this one.

And, indeed, it's a good story. Maudie is a delightful free-thinking woman, who has often clashed with various members of her late husband's family. She decides, relucantly, to sell Moorgate, the old family holiday home. She has arguments about this with her step-daughter, and she also happy weekends with her step-granddaughter. She adopts a large dog, and wonders if the house will ever sell.

Rob, who has been renovating Moorgate, is keeping an eye on it. He seems like a nice young man, but something strange is evidently going on... and the house simply isn't selling, despite being very attractive and nicely renovated.

Meanwhile, Melissa is a young woman who knows that she won't live for long, having stopped all treatment for her terminal illness. She wants a week away on her own, in a place where nobody knows how ill she is. She sees Moorgate advertised, and decides to go and visit it.

So we meet all these people, and many more. Their stories inter-link, and there are some very good character studies. I found the story sometimes moving, often gripping - having forgotten most of it since my first reading - and the ending was positive and hopeful. The minor characters I recalled from another book are Hugh and Max, who appear in more major roles in the novel 'Starting Over'.

So, it was a pleasant light read. I didn't feel a desperate urge to finish it, but I enjoyed another few chapters each evening for the past week or so. It was in the same kind of style as Marcia Willett's other novels; gentle, descriptive, positive, and with a very low-key Christian theme popping up here and there in such a quiet way that it couldn't possibly offend anyone.

But somehow, the spark from my first reading wasn't there. I'd certainly recommend it to anyone who likes this genre of women's fiction - the character-driven human relationship style - and particularly to anyone who has read Willett's other novels. I expect to read it again in another six or seven years. But no longer did it seem like one to class as an all-time favourite. Perhaps my tastes have changed.

Still in print in the UK, but apparently not in the USA.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 24th November 2009

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