It seems appropriate to be breaking a long absence from these online pages with a review of Wintering by Katherine May, because I feel that this blog needed to hibernate for a while, as I reconsidered the type of articles I most enjoy writing. In fact, over the past several months, I’ve subtly altered much of the content I create online, and my revitalised sense of direction has left me eager to blog once again. As the magnolias are blossoming in London, I feel the time has come to put my ideas for this blog into action and to return to posting regularly, with an even greater focus on books, travel and seasonal living.
Wintering will undoubtedly be one of my favourite reads of 2020. In her memoir, Katherine May describes wintering as: a season in the cold. It is a fallow period in life when you’re cut off from the world, feeling rejected, sidelined, blocked from progress, or cast into the role of an outsider. Wintering, though hard and unwanted, is also inevitable. May illustrates how we all traverse through the summers and winters of life; none of us can live in endless sunny ease, and we must all learn to accept the darker periods of life and greet our winters with as much grace and resilience as we can muster.
May’s period of wintering started on a bright September day, with an emergency trip to the hospital. Determined to be as resilient as possible under difficult circumstances, May looked to the examples set by the natural world surrounding her in the seaside town of Whitstable, as well as farther afield, in Norway and Iceland, as the days became shorter and darker. By examining the science, literature and folklore of winter, May drew lessons from nature’s coldest season to learn how to flourish – or at least survive – when life felt most barren. Wintering, then, is a book about hope, comfort and the solace of nature. It shows how small daily pleasures – making soup, reading a good book, going for a walk, swimming in the sea – may triumph over the darker crevices of the mind.
One of the greatest joys of Wintering is its lyrical prose. In one of my favourite chapters, May writes about how, learning not to fight her insomnia, she instead uses the wee hours of the morning for reading and writing. Her mind settles like a snow globe as soon as she stops tossing and turning and gets up, and she realises that the inky hours are also for writing: the scratch and flow of pen on good paper, the stuttering chains of words that expand to fill pages and pages. It was May’s captivating way with words that kept me glued to my chair, devouring Wintering in a single afternoon.
Of course, having enjoyed her book so much, I was eager to invite Katherine May onto Tea & Tattle podcast, and I was truly delighted when I found out she was already a fan. I sat down with Katherine on a cold day in February, just before a short flurry of snow, to chat about Wintering. We had a wonderful discussion, and Katherine read a beautiful passage from the book. Listen to our conversation here:
Purchase Wintering here, or from any of your preferred booksellers.
You can find Katherine May on Instagram: @katherine_may. If you’d like to keep up with what I’m reading and doing, then follow me at @mirandasnotebook and @mirandasbookcase. You might also like to check out the book discussions I post on my new YouTube channel.