Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Winter Vault” as Want to Read:
The Winter Vault
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Winter Vault

3.54 of 5 stars 3.54  ·  rating details  ·  1,381 ratings  ·  240 reviews
In The Winter Vault, award-winning poet and novelist Anne Michaels crafts a love story of extraordinary depth and complexity, juxtaposing historic dislocations with the most intimate moments of individual lives.

In 1964, a newly married Canadian couple settles into a Nile River houseboat moored below the towering figures of Abu Simbel. Avery is one of the engineers respons
...more
ebook, 304 pages
Published April 21st 2009 by Vintage (first published January 1st 2009)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Winter Vault, please sign up.

Recent Questions

This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,746)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
This one is special. To demonstrate, let me IGNORE the best parts, those where I had to stop, catch my breath, close my eyes for fear that the words are already blinding me while feeling "the blow, the disaster to a soul... caused by beauty." Allow me, instead, to maybe just pick a brief scene where nothing is happening, where the author appears to be giving the reader a respite from the seemingly endless glimpses of what literature probably is beyond this world we know--

"Dusk in Owen's bedroom,
...more
Isla McKetta
I've been thinking about what I could say about this book that would express how much I loved it. The only way to start is with my own story. Four months ago I married the man I have loved for sixteen years and I thought marriage would be a capstone on our relationship. I didn't realize our marriage would be the beginning of a new phase of love. Reading about Jean and Avery falling in love, I saw a closeness and intimacy that mirrored ours. I remembered what it was like to fall in love with my h ...more
Shane
I was cautioned by those who had attempted to read this book that they had found it like “work.” Some had even given up in the attempt. And it was work in the opening chapters, when I was treated to excessive descriptions on engineering and botany, and given the exact number of villages, houses, people, goats, camels, ducks, geese and other assorted denizens who were moved during the building of the Aswan Dam in Egypt in 1964. And this excessive “dumping” of research data repeated whether in des ...more
Robyn
There is very little story to this novel. Two decent, smart and unremarkable people are in love and then find it difficult to love one another following the death of their child. The details of this story are given much less attention than you might expect; instead, long passages consider the wife's interest in botany or the husband's involvement in public works projects. I wondered why this is so and the answer I came up with is that this is kind of the way life is: Thinking about what you do o ...more
Natalie
It was better than OK.



The crazy thing was that I was reading it for no better reason than that I picked it up from my bedside table before heading out on a trip. Then I found myself sitting in a presentation in a hotel ballroom where a tidy well dressed speaker told of how a village and its inhabitants would be displaced by a mining operation and how the technology he was demonstrating would predict the costs of relocation and burden of disease before and after for the population. Why weird? Be
...more
Shirley
Anne Michaels is primarily a poet, and her prose shows it. I'm not sure I know where she is going in this book, but I think she is exploring the destruction of whole ways of life: the farms and villages that made room for the St. Lawrence Seaway, Nubian culture and life for the Aswan Dam, the Holocaust for??? Not sure about the last one, but there are hints.

How can you not love a book that starts with"
"Perhaps we painted on our own skin, with ochre and charcoal, long before we painted on stone."
...more
Maia
I'd give this another half star if I could but I cannot, in all honesty with myself, give it three.

This book was chosen--a little to my dismay, I admit (something about the title!)--by my more 'literary' bookclub. I read it slowly, trying to do so with an open mind. In the end, however, I was left feeling the same way I felt when i began: these novels are a perfect example of all the problems in so-called 'literary novels' and in so many novels written by authors who are first and foremost poet
...more
Andrew Mcleod
Jan 29, 2010 Andrew Mcleod rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Nobody
Recommended to Andrew by: My wife
This is a detailed review because my wife asked me to read it and comment on it, since she was due to read it and discuss it at her book club. I must emphasize that this is a very personal perspective. I have not read Fugitive Pieces.

Hardback Edition. Bloomsbury 2009.

Prologue. A very poetic introduction - but essentially meaningless. Well - wait a minute - it may not be meaningless, but when a poet writes, it can be very difficult to get inside the mind of the poet. For example, many years ago,
...more
Teresa Mills-clark
I'm still a little spellbound by this author ... the novel was one to be savoured. As much as I was enthralled, I also needed to put it down and let it "steep" and "seep" into my mind.

To me, a good book is one which must always be engaging. A great book is one which challenges how I perceive things, offers alternative perspectives and raises my awareness of Issue(s) either new or revisited.
The author wrote factually in a lyrical style. No mean feat.

The following is an excerpt by way of an exa
...more
Jeannie Mckinney
Winter Vault is a beautifully written book. Sometimes I would wonder how Ms. Michaels could know or find the wonderful, precise words to brush her images into the reader like a watercolor, which you can paint over so much that it muddies the scene. Not here. The depictions of the temple and artifacs in Egypt were disturbing when Jean, shuddering I believed, recounted the slicing of the stones of Ramsees' leg, but beautifuly disturbing when she talked of the Nubians; downright horrifying in the r ...more
switterbug (Betsey)
The first page of this book (something between an epigraph and a prologue) informs the narrative thrust of the story and glues the abstract elements into a philosophical cohesiveness. This novel, while still a loosely constructed story with main characters and a forward progression, is primarily a meditation on the eternal forces of the human condition entwined with the timeless elements of the earth. The poetic narrative is like an instrument hovering above the earth's atmosphere and producing ...more
Rosana
For years I had been waiting for Anne Michaels to write this book. I loved her first novel, Fugitive Pieces, and wanted to read more of her work. Or, more precisely, wanted her to write more “Fugitive Pieces”. In a twisted way, I got exactly what I wanted... and I feel disappointed about it!

All the elements of her first work are present in The Winter Vault: the poetic and intricate writing; the historical and geological research; characters that dwell in a philosophical cosmos beyond that of th
...more
Tiffany
3.5

It's just one of those things, you know. The writing is beautiful, so many poignant turns of phrase I couldn't possibly list them all. The love story was also beautiful, the longing between Jean and Avery so palpable I almost couldn't bear it when they separated. Loss, love, retribution, tragedy, beauty within tragedy ... this novel has it all.

And I can't figure out why I didn't enjoy it more.

Maybe it was just too much. As isolated sentences, the book is unique in its truth. But throw all th
...more
Anne Broyles
I took my time reading this novel because it was so rich with zen koan-like phrases that made me stop and contemplate. Even with all the start and stop, I still felt connected to the main characters and the forward motion of their story. I was fascinated by the book's interwoven stories of displacement (whole towns that were displaced when the St. Lawrence Seaway was built in Canada, thousand of Nubian villagers who lost their homes and civilization when the Aswan Dam flooded the Nile to form La ...more
Deborah Stevenson
This is a tough one! I have vacillated between loving this book and despairing that I had to read another page. It felt heavy, from the theme, to the prose, to the characters movements. The characters felt unreal to me, so complex yet so simple at the same time that they didn't ring true. Does anyone really go thru life as these characters spending so much time on introspection? If so how do these people have any time for the day to day nuts and bolts of living?
I have 16 post it notes attached f
...more
Sandy Brusin
Anne Michaels writes like the poet she is and uses metaphor the way poets do. Water washes away lives and places in the constructions of the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Aswan Dam -- just as lives and places are "washed" away by the Holocaust in Warsaw. She wrote: "Grief bakes in us, it bakes until one day the blade pushes in and comes out clean." In my book, that's great writing!
Marlene
Well, I did finish, but can't say I loved this. The author is clearly a master with words, with a poetic approach to emotions, etc., but the frequent references to things mechanical and technological create too harsh a contrast, and the two themes do not come together for me. I think she tried to put too much into a basically slim volume. We have the past lives of three characters, past lives which do not ever really come together. The theme of destruction of cities is repeated, but gets tedious ...more
Jeanette
I loved "Fugitive Pieces" and I really enjoyed reading "The Winter Vault." The themes of change and loss seem to dominate the novel. These themes are developed as the Aswan Dam on the Nile is being built and Avery Escher oversees the removal and reassembly of the Abu Simbel temple to higher ground to save it from being flooded. Also, the memories Avery and Jean share of the damning of the St. Lawrence river to provide hydro electric power echo these themes.

These themes are echoed in their perso
...more
Fionnuala
I had the strange impression that this piece of writing was sculpted patiently out of a huge block of stone just as the giant statues of the pharaohs were sculpted in the Nubian desert. I felt that there were many more bits of writing that had been chipped away and discarded and what we were left with was the pared down shape which Michaels had carefully sculpted for us. I was fascinated by the engineering details relating to dam construction and the impact of man-made lakes on local communities ...more
Jo-anne
Michaels has an amazing grasp of language and her use of words is beautiful and evocative....but this book is too much repetition of the same idea...I eventually felt almost bludgeoned by the images of Warsaw and war. Perhaps this is the author's intent but instead of increasing my compassion I began to feel inured against acknowledging yet more suffering and horror. Sometimes " less is more" and I think that less would have made this novel 4 star instead of 3. Not as good as Fugitive Pieces but ...more
Erin
Anne Michaels is one of my favorite poets, so I went into this book with high hopes. I think, though, that if I didn't love her poetry, I wouldn't have loved this book, since that's pretty much all it is. The plot (which is not exactly dense) just sort of seemed to exist so that she could have her characters make beautiful statements about life and love and history. And botany and engineering. Frankly, I was okay with that, but I imagine a lot of people might not be. Bonus points for making me w ...more
Alumine Andrew
I love Michaels’ writing. She has a wonderful way with words and images stay indelibly in my mind. In this novel a young Canadian couple Avery and Jean who meet on the banks of the St Lawrence river, embark on a journey to Egypt. They live in a houseboat moored on the Nile close to where Avery is overseeing the dismantling of the temple of Abu Simberl and its reconstruction further downriver. Jean is a botanist by vocation and passion and observes the transition of the historical monument and th ...more
Lynne
I just didn't get this one. There were seeds of two good novels in there, but it ended up a confusing mishmash. I would love a novel about the building of the Aswan dam or the reconstruction of Germany after WWII, but not a combined novel. I would have preferred more attention to the plot and less to the language. In the end, I didn't care about any of the characters and almost quit halfway through.
Meghan
Jean took off everything, then pulled Lucjan's sweater over her head; the sleeves hung down to her knees. The wool carried his embrace and his shape. Then she cooked only in the small light of the stove, working alone in the dim kitchen. She would cook something that required slow, long heat, the flavours intensifying. She smelled the herbs on her fingers, his smell in her hair, the eucalyptus scent of her own skin. She watched the kale and onions and mushrooms turn soft and shrink with the heat ...more
Irene
I must admit I didn't always get what was going on in this book, but when it had me it had me deep. The story is easy to summarize but the book is hard for me to describe. It's a lot about the characters' interior lives, especially what happens when two people resonate deeply. I felt like it literally pulled emotions out of me.
Gisela
Apr 14, 2015 Gisela rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Gisela by: My local book group
Shelves: favourites
A beautiful and sad love story interwoven with an exploration of human creativity, suffering and destruction from an individual level to a much broader level. If you liked "The English Patient" you will probably love this book too.

Although this book seems unbearably slow to start with -- a bit like walking through desert sand -- my perseverance was rewarded in spades once I made it past the first 50 pages. It is one of the most lyrical, beautiful and perceptive books I've read in years. It's lik
...more
Lisa
I'm generous with stars, but this is lovely writing and the setting, Egypt, is one that captures my imagination. An interesting combination of themes brought together, sense of place, altering the environment, Jews in exile and the aftermath of WWII.
Gerhard Schoeman
A book about loss cutting into people and places. Composed of luminous yet achingly distant memory images as afterimages, the book lingers, keeps unfolding long after the last image of Jean painting a landscape on Avery's back. Not erasing, but washing away.
Lynn Pribus
This sounded so promising. It involved the Aswan Dam on the Nile and clearly the author had researched the plans, building, and aftermath in painstaking detail which she was overeager to share.

By the time I was listening to the second segment of the audiobook, I was still stranded in a documentary. Although I believe one of the characters was named Avery, there was nary a sign of a plot in sight.

I understand that people were displaced. I understand that building the dam ended the spring silt de
...more
Louise Silk
a disappointing and difficult read about a Canadian couple who alter land to move water and in this and their personal lives are always dealing with great loss.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 91 92 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Matter With Morris
  • The Incident Report
  • Turtle Valley
  • The Boys in the Trees
  • Garbo Laughs
  • A Wall of Light (Tel Aviv Trilogy #3)
  • Galveston
  • Curiosity
  • A Map of Glass
  • The Golden Mean
  • The Heart Specialist
  • River Thieves
  • De Niro's Game
  • The Navigator of New York
  • The Russländer
  • The Free World
  • A Good House
  • Extensions
9800
From Canadian Poetry Online:

Anne Michaels was born in Toronto, Canada, in 1958. She is the author of one novel Fugitive Pieces, which explores the possibility of love and faith alter the Holocaust, with language marked by power, elegance, and integrity. Ms. Michaels, who has also composed musical scores for the theater, has said "when you put a tremendous amount of love into your work, as in any r
...more
More about Anne Michaels...
Fugitive Pieces The Weight of Oranges / Miners Pond / Skin Divers: Poems Skin Divers Miner's Pond Correspondences: A poem and portraits

Share This Book

“In every childhood there is a door that closes. Only real love waits while we journey through our grief. That is the real trustworthiness between people. In all the epics, in all the stories that have lasted through many lifetimes, it is always the same truth: love must wait for wounds to heal. It is this waiting we must do for each other, not with a sense of mercy, or in judgment, but as if forgiveness were a rendezvous. How many are willing to wait for another in this way?” 4 likes
“[And while people ran about proclaiming such things,] I could only think that everything exists because of loss. From the bricks of our buildings, from cement to human cells, everything exists because of chemical transformation, and every chemical transformation is accompanied by loss. And when I look up at the night sky I think: The astronomers have given every star a number.” 3 likes
More quotes…