Fiction Addiction

Book news and reviews with Bronwyn Sell and Christine Sheehy

Fiction Addiction: Best wintry books to curl up with

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Huddle up with one of these favourites to get you through a chilly winter's day. Photo / Thinkstock
Huddle up with one of these favourites to get you through a chilly winter's day. Photo / Thinkstock

Extremes of weather can make for the most atmospheric of novels. So while the temperature plummets outside, crank up the fire, huddle under the duvet and embrace winter by chilling out with a book that encapsulates the season. Here are our favourite wintry novels. What are yours?

Miss Smilla's Feeling For Snow, by Peter Hoeg

The bookshelves are groaning with Scandinavian crime novels these days, but when Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow was released in English in 1996 it was a novelty. Smilla is a part-Inuit woman with an affinity for snow and ice who becomes suspicious about the death of her neighbour's young son after studying tracks he left in the snow. Her search for the truth takes her to a glaciated island in Greenland where she uncovers a deeper conspiracy.

To Build a Fire, by Jack London

Pretty much anything by Jack London would fit the bill for an atmospheric winter read, but To Build a Fire will stick with you well into summer. A man attempts to walk the Yukon Trail alone with his husky dog in the heart of the winter darkness, when the slightest slip could mean death. And then he slips ...

The Conductor, by Sarah Quigley

The Conductor is set during the Siege of Leningrad in World War II, as the German army and a merciless winter hammer the city. With the city's leading musical talent evacuated, a starving conductor is left to summon his bedraggled second-rate orchestra to perform Shostakovich's Seventh Symphony in a rousing act of defiance. The novel, by expat New Zealander Sarah Quigley, is based on a true story.

The Shining, by Stephen King

I didn't say this was going to be an uplifting list. If you've seen the movie, it's impossible to read The Shining without being haunted by Jack Nicholson's demented face from the movie version. An aspiring writer takes a job as winter caretaker of an isolated hotel in Colorado, with just his wife and five-year-old son for company. But he soon encounters more problems than just writer's block, as the hotel's ghosts possess him and urge him to kill his family. (If that's not enough misery for you, move on to King's 1987 novel Misery, in which another writer is kidnapped by a demented nurse after crashing his car during a snowstorm.)

Jamaica Inn, by Daphne du Maurier

Set on the rainswept Bodmin Moor in Cornwall, Jamaica Inn is a Gothic romance swirling with smugglers, shipwrecks and conspiracy. Young heroine Mary Yellan arrives at her aunt and uncle's inn by stagecoach during a winter storm, and the plot just gets darker and chillier as she realises her relatives - and the bloke she fancies - are caught up with a murderous band of thieves.

A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens

As Dicken's famous novel opens on Christmas Eve, protagonist Ebenezer Scrooge is as bitter and cold as the English weather. Overnight, Scrooge is visited by a series of ghosts who force him to evaluate his past, present and future, in the hope he'll thaw by morning.

The Child Thief, by Dan Smith

Just released, this thriller follows a World War I veteran as he tracks a violent child kidnapper through the frozen wastelands of the Ukraine in December 1930, under the shadow of an increasingly brutal Soviet regime. He soon discovers the deadly weather is the least of his problems. (Hachette, $36.99)

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