Original date of publication: 1928
My edition: 1986 (Virago)
Why I decided to read: All Virago/All August
How I acquired my copy: LT member, June 2012
Winter Sonata revolves around the lives of several people in a small English village. Arnold Nettle is a shy telegraph operator, disinclined towards conversation, which nonetheless is invited to his neighbors, where he plays the cello for them in the evenings. He falls in love with Olivia, the eldest daughter, a smart, introspective young woman with good judgment about other people. Other characters in the drama include Olivia’s teenage sister Eleanor, their cousin George, his best friend Mr. Premiss, and Mr. Nettle’s landlady’s teenage daughter, Pauline.
Although the book claims to be a love story, it is mostly about the interactions between the main characters. Although part of the group, Mr. Nettle is completely detached from them, and it’s interesting to watch the difference between Olivia, who’s in her twenties and has a head on her shoulders, and the two teenage girls, who are both completely infatuated by Mr. Premiss—a roué who thrives on the admiration of women if ever there was one. Olivia can see what a pompous ass he is, and part of the fun of the book is watching her play around with him. Dorothy Edwards depicts the differences between these girls and women very well. There is also a subtle commentary on the stratification of social class, seen in the difference between Mrs. Clark and Pauline, and the Nerans and Curles.
Like the eponymous season, this book is somewhat bleak in its aspects; there are endless, repetitive references to the weather. In a sense, though, the weather and the characters’ moods are very similar; there’s a sense of gloominess in the tone of the book and the prose Edwards uses to describe her characters’ mental and emotional states. It’s maybe reflective of the author’s own state of mind.