Christopher Nicholson

From the author of the Costa Best Novel-shortlisted ‘The Elephant Keeper’, a poignant imagining of Thomas Hardy’s relationship with his last muse.

In the winter of 1924 the most celebrated English writer of the day, 84-year-old Thomas Hardy, was living at his Dorset home of Max Gate with his second wife, Florence. Aged 45 but in poor health, Florence came to suspect that Hardy was in the grip of a romantic infatuation. The woman in question was a beautiful local actress, 27-year-old Gertrude Bugler, who was playing Tess in the first dramatic adaptation of Hardy’s most famous novel, ‘Tess of the d’Urbervilles’.

Inspired by these events, ‘Winter’ is a brilliantly realised portrait of an old man and his imaginative life; the life that has brought him fame and wealth, but that condemns him to living lives he can’t hope to lead, and reliving those he thought he once led. It is also, though, about the women who now surround him: the middle-aged, childless woman who thought she would find happiness as his handmaiden; and the young actress, with her youthful ambitions and desires, who came between them.

Reviews of Winter

    • ‘A superfine, thistledown novel … written in a prose of such quality that one does not notice the quality – to describe it as craftsmanlike doesn’t do it justice. It is a prose beyond accomplishment, yet which refuses to astonish, and which is utterly appropriate.’ Ian Sansom, Guardian
    • ‘Nicholson’s opening is pitch perfect … And the novel ends with a beautifully handled conceit … It is brave to set yourself up for comparison with an author as great as Hardy but this poetic and unashamedly literary book is good enough not to be embarrassed by the company it seeks to keep.’ The Times
    • ‘Elegant … While Nicholson’s plot adds almost nothing to the historical facts, he lends the story depth by telling it from three different points of view … A memorable portrait of a failed marriage.’ Novel of the Week, Mail on Sunday
    • ‘A gently elegiac tone permeates the novel, with its ravishing, appropriately Hardyesque sense of the intimate connection between landscape and emotion … The conclusion is a touching celebration of life over art’ Telegraph
    • ‘Devotees of Thomas Hardy should find much to treasure in Nicholson’s third novel … Nicholson emulates Hardy’s elegant style with remarkable acuity … A wonderfully insightful — and occasionally humorous — portrait of marital unhappiness and the dynamics of desire and longing’ Sunday Times
    • ‘A wonderful novel, moving, gripping and illuminating.’ David Lodge
    • ‘Insightful’ Sunday Times Must Reads
    • ‘A passionate portrayal of love in its many guises’ Country Life Magazine