Friday, October 30, 2009

Winter's End by Jean-Claude Mourlevat (translated by Anthea Bell)



Four teenagers escape from their prison-like boarding schools to take up the fight against the tyrannical government that murdered their parents fifteen years earlier. But only three of the friends make it safely to Jahn's restaurant, the headquarters of a secret resistance movement, where they discover the astonishing power that one voice can have in the fight for freedom.

As the battle rages, the three friends are in a race against time to save their companion, who has been forced to participate in a deadly, ancient game for the amusement of his captors. Will this new generation prevail, or are they destined to meet the same grisly fate as their parents?


Character Development: 6/10
Originality: 8/10
Overall Enjoyment: 9/10
Ending: 10/10
Setting: 9/10
Recommendation: 8/10
Total Score: 50/70

Grade: B (though bordering on an A)

Age Appropriate?

Cussing: Very little.
Alcohol, Drugs, etc: A limited amount of drinking, lots of smoking.
Sexual Content: One scene; the rest is implied. Not very gruesome.
Disturbing Images/Violence: A LOT of bloody images and graphic murders, deaths, and torture stuff. None of it was extremely affecting, but beware.


Winter's End is such a strange book. I have a feeling that this has something to do with the fact that it's originally French. :-P Being a student of the French language, I can see how the writing style fits the cadence of that tongue, and the culture resembles theirs. In some ways, I could tell that it was aimed at a much different audience than the American one, but in others I was amazed at the beauty and universality of the tale.

'Weird' is a good word to describe the setting. It was...disconcerting. Though I had no trouble imagining the actual physical surroundings of the characters, the time period and the atmosphere were a little askew. Reading it felt like being in a mixture of an Anastasia-and-the-Russian-Revolution story, eighteenth-century London, and modern-day Europe. I could never decide how I felt about the setting, whether it fit or it didn't. At some points I was wrinkling my nose in distaste; at others I was pining for it. Make of that what you will.

The characters were another bizarre aspect. While the rest of the novel was down-to-earth and almost melancholy, the four main characters seemed to have walked out of a fairy tale. Or a 1940s movie. They were naive and immature for seventeen-year-olds, at least at first. From the start, I hated them. I never warmed up to Helen or Milena, and only began to like Bartolomeo slightly by the end. In fact, the only main character who gained my love by the end was Milos, and he was my least favorite at first. Of the four of them, he was the only one I believed was actually in love with his counterpart. While Milena and Bart's relationship was more believable, they were flat characters and not really likeable.

If you have trouble with tedious stories, beware. While quite engrossing, the pace is slow and the book is a lot longer than it looks. At some points, I wanted to fall asleep and just stop reading, but at others, I was eagerly turning pages. It took me a while, so if you're a slow reader, maybe this isn't the best option. On the plus side, the book was very imaginative and freakishly, almost outlandishly, different. The plot was invigorating and intense, and the third-person omniscient perspective gave it an ethereal, mysterious air. This is an excellent read for brave, determined, and diligent readers.


  1. Excellent review. I haven't heard of this book before. Intriguing.

  2. This Book Was Simply Amazing ! Just Great ! A Really Good Must Read :D


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