Mini Review: This Winter

CSBT9rIWsAA2LcUThis Winter is Alice Oseman’s second novella and tells the story of the Spring family’s Christmas. Set just before Solitaire begins, this is a lovely accompaniment to Alice’s debut.

In this novella we read about the difficulties that the Spring family are facing on Christmas day. It’s not been long since Charlie was released from hospital after being admitted for anorexia and attempting suicide; Tori is upset that Charlie is unwell and is finding it difficult to know how to feel about their parents unwillingness to talk about anything; and to make it all worse their whole family is coming over for Christmas dinner.

Similarly to Alice’s first Solitaire novella Nick and Charlie this is a multiple perspective story, this time told from Tori’s, Charlie’s and Oliver’s points of view. I asked Alice why she wrote a chapter from each perspective to which she said: ‘I think the heart of the story is the relationships between the Spring siblings, and I wanted to give each of them a perspective! They’re all very interesting characters with different personalities and I was interested in exploring all of them. This Winter isn’t like Solitaire in terms of its narration – Solitaire is wholly focused on Tori’s journey and her feelings, whereas This Winter is about all three of the siblings.

It was lovely to read from 7 year old Oliver’s viewpoint because he’s so cute and I think Alice does such a good job of presenting a realistic childlike perspective of the difficulties that the Spring family are facing. Sometimes books with characters who suffer from a mental illness can feel very issue heavy and I really liked that the more serious aspects of Charlie’s story was balanced by Oliver’s innocence.

Like with Solitaire and Nick and Charlie, in This Winter I think Alice writes Charlie’s anorexia very believably and also very gently. Nothing is ever made painfully blatant nor is his condition uncomfortable to read about. Despite this, it doesn’t ever feel that Alice downplays the seriousness of anorexia and so to strike a balance between the two I think shows real skill and understanding. Talking on writing about anorexia Alice says: ‘I do take the time to do careful research to make sure that I don’t say anything blatantly incorrect or ignorant. And I always make the effort to make sure I write about it respectfully and realistically.

For the time being at least This Winter looks to be the last Solitaire novella as Alice has ‘no current plans to write any more’, thinking that if she went back to the characters it would be ‘in a new full book’. Luckily, Alice’s second novel Radio Silence is expected to be published on February 25th 2016 so there’s not too long to wait for more of her fabulous writing (yay!).

I loved This Winter even more than Nick and Charlie as it was so wonderful to read about the whole family as well as Tori and Charlie. I think Alice is so skilful at capturing aspects of family life that are so relatable and so enjoyable to read – my family Christmas is nothing like the Spring’s and yet it felt so familiar and in a way comforting to read about theirs. Festive and fabulous, this is another brilliant piece of writing from Alice and although I’m sad to say goodbye to Solitaire, I’m very excited to read more from her next year!

Thank you Alice for answering my questions ❤ Read the Qs and As here!

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