Friday, December 24, 2010
The Winter Ghosts - Book Review
The Winter Ghosts
By Kate Mosse
Orion Books October 2009
The Great War took much more than lives. It robbed a generation of friends, lovers and futures. In Freddie Watson's case, it took his beloved brother and, at times, his peace of mind. In the winter of 1928, still seeking resolution, Freddie is travelling through the French Pyrenees. During a snowstorm, his car spins off the mountain road. He stumbles through woods, emerging in a tiny village. There he meets Fabrissa, a beautiful woman also mourning a lost generation. Over the course of one night, Fabrissa and Freddie share their stories. By the time dawn breaks, he will have stumbled across a tragic mystery that goes back through the centuries.
While the beginning was slow - it was mostly about Freddie Watson and how he was still mourning over the death of his older brother George during the First World War. While he is mourning, he travels to the Languedoc in southern France. While out driving one day in the Pyrenees, he gets caught in a snow storm and crashes the car. He hikes to a village called Nulle and while he is there, he meets the villagers. Due to the storm, Freddie develops a fever and is very ill that night. While the owner of the inn where Freddie is staying looks after him, she insists that Freddie stay in bed for one more day. Freddie refuses.
Freddie beleives the villagers he met are 20th century villagers. In fact they are from the 12th century. He falls in love with one girl called Fabrissa. She tells him the story of the village - of how the inquisition (She just referred to a War and called the men soldiers) attacked the village and forced the villagers to go into hiding - up into the mountains where they sought shelter in the caves. The Inquisition soldiers followed the villagers up into the mountains and then built up walls to block up the caves.
Freddie takes the village mechanic back to his car and they arrange for his car to be towed to a mechanic so it can be repaired,. While they are discussing the repairs, Freddie is also asking questions about the villagers and the caves. Eventually Freddie gets a wild idea - to climb up the mountains and try to find the cave where Fabrissa and her family sought safety.
Once he arrives at the cave, his fever returns. He finds the tomb full of skeletons and finally undertsands that his Fabrissa (the girl he had fallen in love with) was a ghost of the past. He is close to death when he is found and he wakes up in a local hospital. One of the mechanics sons had followed him up into the mountains and rescued him from a cave that was obviously a tomb with a "spirit of death" - the spirit of death was slowly draining the life force from Freddie's body.
Once Freddie recovers, he explains how he climbed up to the caves and discovered a new unknown Cathar tomb. The archaeologists are eager to investigate and excavate. In this cave Freddie found a letter written in the Occitan language (Languedoc or Provencal). While it was not addressed to anyone, Freddie believes it was meant for him. After he is released from the hospital, Freddie returns to England.
Five years later, Freddie finally feels strong enough to know what the letter says. He takes this letter to an Antiquarian in Toulouse. Freddie tells his story to the Antiquarian in minute detail. The Antiquarian translates and reads the letter to Freddie.