The novel focuses on the true events that occurred around the London theater dramatization of Hardy's acclaimed novel Tess of the D'Urbervilles, including Hardy's hand-picked casting of the young, alluring Gertrude "Gertie" Bugler of The Hardy Players to play Tess. As plans for the play become more concrete, Hardy's interest in Gertie becomes a voyeuristic infatuation, causing him to write some of the best poems of his career. However, when Hardy's reclusive wife, Florence, catches wind of Hardy's desire for Gertie to take the London stage, a tangled web of jealously and missed opportunity ensnares all three characters-with devastating results.
Told from the perspectives of Hardy, Gertie, and Florence, Nicholson's novel perfectly captures the often-difficult juxtaposition of fledgling hopes and the unfulfilled life. With expert insight into the struggles of both Hardy and Florence, coupled with poetic yet unassuming prose, Winter is certainly on par with the novels of its central character.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2015-10-19
- Reviewer: Staff
Thomas Hardy fans will be engrossed by Nicholsons fictional account of the true story of Hardys infatuation, at age 84, with a married 18-year-old amateur actress, Gertie Bugler, playing Tess in the local Corn Exchange production of Tess of the DUrbervilles. This disconcerting tale is told from three alternating standpoints: Hardys, Gerties, and that of Hardys second wife, Florence. Although the womens narratives are credible and entertaining, Hardys perspective dominates and captivates through its slow rhythms, antiquated vocabulary, and above all its third-person style featuring natural imagery, meandering syntax, and melancholy observations. In classic Hardy fashion, the novel begins with a rural landscape, zeroes in on the silhouette of an old man walking with his dog, and then reveals that the dog is named Wessex and the old man is the great novelist. Even before Florence has her say, the strains on their marriage are evident, what with Hardy preoccupied by work, memories, and increasingly by Gertie. Hardy invites Gertie to tea when Florence is away, watches Gerties performance from backstage, keeps a lock of her hair, and imagines eloping. Gertie, meanwhile, imagines a London stage career, while Florence imagines widowhood. As in his two previous novels, Nicholson (The Elephant Keeper) presents an impossible, inappropriate passion. This effort proves most remarkable for its deliciously archaic prose and portrait of the artist as an old man falling in love partly with a girl, partly with the disappearing countryside and lost youth she represents, and mostly with his own creation. (Jan.)