If therapy is a talking cure, this beautiful book is a reading cure. Not that it sets out in a know-it-all way to enlighten. It is too internalised for that. It is a personal, original and wayward examination of the idea that, as humans, we have – and need to have – our fallow seasons, that we must learn to revel in days when the light is low ... This is a winter’s tale of hard-won celebration, but – in keeping with other memoirs – it begins with what we are braced to predict will be a catastrophe ... She researches the somewhere-elseness of winter – not as a journalist might, but more like a poet with an angled take on things, an instinctive sense of beauty, a helpless appreciation of comedy ... She seems always to have access to the perfect image...And she stirs our appetite for the quiet described. Her book has the quality of a meditation, a peaceful rebuff to life in fast-forward ... [May] has a gift for unleashing unexpected comedy, especially when her intentions are most earnest. Inconveniently given her subject, the sauna has a disastrous effect ... There is so much to treasure here – most of all, her fantastic descriptions of swimming in a winter sea ... I love the surprises of this book. Most of all, it is about the comforts of language. Reading is like slipping into a fur coat. May could protectively convince us of anything – the pleasures of cold weather, slow days, dusty libraries. They all start to seem like prizes and her sensual connoisseurship a joy.
In this honest and deeply sympathetic meditation on her own fall through a gap in the 'mesh of the everyday world,' Ms. May, a British novelist and essayist, proves that there is grace in letting go, stepping back and giving yourself time to repair in the dark ... she is generous enough to share her strategies for how to find respite in the dark and endure until a new spring arrives ... Ms. May is a clear-eyed observer and her language is steady, honest and accurate—capturing the sense, the beauty and the latent power of our resting landscapes, of lying fallow ... Her retreat and renewal is a personal experience, generously shared ... encourages us to accept our imperfections and trust in the world, with its cycles of hibernation and regeneration.
May writes beautifully of her own recent bout with a personal winter ... [May] has found a subject that speaks to our time ... refreshingly free of self-pitying navel-gazing and trite exhortations to buck up ... Also refreshing, May embraces the cold and dark in part by exploring the soothing powers of the natural world and the way other creatures and cultures deal with winter ... a contemplative, hopeful, consoling book.