In the Bleak Midwinter


by Lindsey

I desperately wanted to include an animated gif of Tommy Shelby from the gritty and beautifully paced BBC television series Peaky Blinders, since the title of this post comes from a poem by English poet Christina Rossetti that is frequently referenced in the series. Alas, it would spoil the show for those who have not seen it.

While the poem (and popular song of the same title) is not necessarily bleak, the stark image of a bleak winter inspired me this month. At this time of year, we are bombarded by sweet romances, family-friendly comedies, and relentless holiday music. There is nothing wrong with this, I adore the holidays, but I also gravitate toward the darker side, so what about those of us who prefer their winter reads with a melancholy or chilling tone?

Winter brings a lot of hardships, so many people turn to happier tales to offset sadness. I understand it completely. In a fiction, however, I love reading about those hardships. I love the isolation and frigid cold of winter, and way the atmosphere influences story.

I have curated a list of books that, in my opinion, characterize a bleak midwinter. Some are set during the winter months, in a cold environment, others merely carry the damp, metaphorical weight of winter. If you’re like me and, on occasion, enjoy having your literary spirit ripped apart, you may find something you love!

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4 responses to “In the Bleak Midwinter”

  1. Julie says:

    The Road is one of my favorite bleak midwinter reads. I remember the first time I read it, the setting around me was perfect: a county bus driving down a dark, rural highway. Thank you for sharing this gloriously dark and moody list!

  2. Brian says:

    “damp, metaphorical weight of winter” – my thoughts go to the poetry of Wilhelm Muller as realized in song by Franz Schubert in his Winter Journey (Winterreise). This video performance adds bleak imagery to this tale of lost love.
    In this book you can read about the singer’s obsession with this tale of isolation and loneliness.

  3. Jenny says:

    Nothing so bleak as Thomas Hardy’s *Jude the Obscure* in my opinion. And there is an equally bleak movie adaptation, *Jude*, starring Kate Winslet and Christopher Eccleston. Published in 1895 it chronicles Jude’s idealistic hopes which are dashed by reality. Every. Time. Come for the discrimination against couples with children out of wedlock, stay for the appalling downward spiral that follows. So dreary, so good.

  4. Lindsey says:

    I’ve always wanted to read Jude the Obscure! I love me a good downward spiral. Thanks for reminding me about that one, Jenny!

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