Harriet Evans has created a charming, realistic and heartrending novel set in a wonderful old home called Winterfold located deep in the Somerset countryside.
Martha and David Winter have lived and loved in Winterfold for nearly fifty years. It is there that they raised their family of three, Bill, Daisy and Florence. It is also where they raised their granddaughter, Cat. Both David and Martha, from London’s East End, have memories of WWII. David lived through the Blitz during his childhood whilst at the same time enduring life with an abusive father.
The story opens with Martha who has issued an invitation to her family to return to Winterfold to celebrate her eightieth birthday. But this is more than just a milestone birthday. Martha has intimated that she will be making an important announcement. An announcement which she acknowledges may destroy the family she loves so much.
David and Martha are both artists – though Martha has relinquished her art to maintain her beautiful home and raise their children. David is a successful cartoonist who has based his art on his daughter Daisy and her dog, Wilbur. These days David struggles to keep up with his deadlines due to ill health and old age. Their daughter Florence, who never married, is a renowned art historian living in Italy. Their daughter Daisy has distanced herself from the family by working in third world countries. Their son Bill, a married physician, lives locally. Bill and Florence do not have happy memories of Daisy – she was unkind to them when they were children and seemed ‘different’ to the rest of the Winter clan.
David loves his family dearly, but above all else he adores Martha. Their lives are perceived as idyllic by strangers and neighbours alike. They are renown for their entertaining, and for their beautiful home. The reader eventually comes to realize that their bucolic life masks deception and heartbreak.
Throughout the novel we come to know and love the members of the Winter family. We come to understand their foibles, their strengths and weaknesses, their loves, their self doubts and aspirations, their desire for approval. We come to love others as well. Karen, Bill’s wife, and Joe, a local chef to name but two.
“A place for us” is an enjoyable and thoughtfully rendered family saga reminiscent of the novels of Kate Morton, Rosamunde Pilcher, Maeve Binchy and the like. It aptly depicts the complications that can be created when family members strive to present an “all’s well” face to the world, when family members keep the truth hidden in order to protect those they love most. The author, Harriet Evans displays a keen understanding of family relationships and the human psyche. “A Place for Us” touches upon many themes. The ravages of war, domestic abuse, loneliness, despair, grief, and of course… love.
Watch and listen to an introduction/teaser from the author on YouTube.