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In The Midst of Winter

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Review of In the Midst of Winter by Isabel Allende and translated by Nick Caistor and Amanda Hopkinson


The weather is awful, snow affecting traffic and one of the three main characters, university professor Richard has to bring one of his cats to the vet, venturing out in weather. When coming back, he skids on the icy roads and hits a car driven by Evelyn (originally from Guatemala). She seems to be in shock with the accident and all Richard can do is throw his card in the car before she drives on. Later that night, she comes to Richard's address (which was on the card) but she struggles to be coherent int he situation forcing Richard to call on his lodger from the cold cold basement due to Richard's pinch penny ways, visiting professor from Chile, Lucia.


What transpires is that Evelyn is in a bit of bother, when getting diapers for the child with a disability (cerebral palsy) and incontinence problem, she then found a body in her bosses car and as an illegal immigrant, didn't know what to do.  Lucia convinces Richard that they need to help the girl.


Both Lucia and Evelyn are immigrants. As a young teenager, Lucia had to go into political exile as the Pinochet regime had made threats to her that although she was apolitical, her brother had been murdered by the regime. Evelyn fled Guatemala as like Evelyn, her life was in danger.  Richard is also not immune to fleeing because of danger to life, not him but his father had fled Germany just prior to World War 2.


This is an odd novel, with a murder and a body in the booth, three characters affected by fleeing torture, murder, genocide, oppressive regimes,  you would think that this would be very dark novel but Allende isn't that sort of writer and she weaves into it a kind of romantic novel. She mixed a tender sympathethic tones to the blights to make an affecting novel with plenty of heart, giving voice to the characters but providing at the same time, dark issues but light reading.


One thing though, to me it seemed obvious who the person that killed the woman in the boot was. At all times I did think it was the wife of Evelyn's employer



A very good novel.


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