Carllee's Reviews > Winter's End

Winter's End by Jean-Claude Mourlevat
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Jan 06, 10

bookshelves: ya-lit
Read in January, 2010 — I own a copy

This book is fantastic – if you’re not too bothered by the pesky little plot and character problems like “I’ve known you for one day but you’re the love of my life!” I feel like I always come off too harsh in my reviews so I’m going to start with what I liked about the book first this time and then move on to its problems. Like most books I read I love them while I’m reading them, I get caught up in the plot and the characters and I often over look glaring plot problems. As it turns out my thoughts on Winter’s End are no different. But you’re right – I was going to start with positives.

First, I want to disclose my bias. I read every YA sci-fi / apocalypse / dystopian book I can get my hands on. So I have read a lot of this kind of book. I don’t know which was way gives me bias but I know its there so I’m sharing it for a sense of full disclosure. Second, I should say that I was expecting this to be the first in a series and to my great, joyful surprise (and disappointment but I’ll get to that) this is not a series. This is a complete story, with an epilogue and all. This may not seem abnormal to some but there is a glaring trend in YA literature right now to serialize everything. It is one of my biggest pet peeves so I was relieved when I got to the final chapters of this book and realized that it was a finished story.

Probably most importantly I loved the ‘main’ character, Helen. This is, of course, arguable because there are 4 main characters all of which could be considered the ‘main’ character. Perhaps its my own perceptions or biases but I felt that Helen was given the most narrative voice, and the most character development so in my mind that makes her the main protagonist. I also love Helen because she is completely ordinary. I have never encountered a protagonist who had no specialness. And I loved it. I kept waiting for her specialness to appear, but it never did. Turns out she’s just like you and me. Sure all of her friends are super special and talented but that doesn’t mean there is anything extra great about Helen. She’s a nice person and works to do right by her friends but other than that, nothing. At one point in the book the other characters leave to go do something important and they leave Helen behind. When does that happen? Who has ever left their main character out of the main action? I was completely put off by this but not in a bad way.

Now the problems: First, the author spends far too much time on exposition. It’s ½ of the book. The catalyst: page 31. Start of actual action: mid-300’s. It’s like Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows all over again. Far too much time is spent in the woods / running from the fascist leader / talking about planning and far too little time is spent on actual action. This book has 3rd person omniscient narration that jumps from character to character depending whose story the reader is receiving. However, in a strange way it’s also limited to Helen, which, I know, doesn’t make any sense. We, as the audience, are left out of all secret meetings. In some ways it reinforces Helen ordinariness but at the same time it’s a strange plot device. I can’t quite understand it. Second, while I loved Helen’s character is was also very strange to be following 4 characters and at the same time 1. Since Helen was the focal main character and she was often left out of major decisions I as the reader also felt left out. Finally, this was a book about something but not quite the characters or the throwing over of a corrupt government. I’m not quite sure which it was about. It’s touching and I liked but it’s not the greatest piece of fiction I’ve ever read. *(I feel I should mention here that this book was originally written in French and was translated into English. So some things are maybe, as they say, lost in translation).

Still with me? Okay. Read this book. It’s good. Just don’t think about it too much.

Book Rating: 7/10
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12/28/2009 page 150
34.72% "Unexpectedly fantastic"
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