Six for Sunday: Books with Wintry Colours

This post is part of Six For Sunday, organised by Steph of A Little But A Lot.

This week's prompt is 'Books with Wintry Colours' - which, when you think about it, is a theme that can be interpreted in several ways. What are wintry colours anyway? To me they are white (snow, ice), red (holly berries, Rudolph's nose) and green (holly again). A book might have a cover with those colours, or they might feature in its title. Or perhaps it's the content that makes one think of them - is it set in a cold and snowy place? And what about when the snow thaws and we are left with that horrible brown slush at the side of every road? Can brown count?

Here are my six books:

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

This, Collins' fifth novel, is considered to be one of the first detective stories written in English. It was published in 1859 as a series of instalments in Charles Dickens' magazine All the Year Round; a year later it appeared in book form. The plot concerns the fate of a wealthy young woman, Laura Fairlie, whose fortune will immediately pass to her husband if she dies childless. Arranged marriages, illegitimacy, subterfuge, forgery, identity theft, and the fate of women who become inconvenient to their husbands - Laura's would-be suitor Walter and her feisty companion Marian have to overcome all of these as they seek to save her (and her money) from some pretty awful men and bring about a happy ending.

A Fatal Thaw by Dana Stabenow

There's plenty of snow and ice in this one! I know I've mentioned the Kate Shugak books before - this one is the second in a long series. Shugak is an ex-police officer now working as a private investigator in the Alaskan National Park. She is a native Aleut and related to many of the characters who appear, and for me a big part of these books' attraction is the insight they give into the lives and problems of the Aleut people, and also of various other self-sufficient loners and homesteaders who have decided to live off grid in the remote parts of what is already a remote state. White-out blizzards, snowmobiles and frozen lakes - it's fascinating to see how people cope in such a hostile environment. And each book does, of course, focus on a murder (or murders) that Shugak has to solve, always with the assistance of her half-Husky half-wolf companion Mutt. In A Fatal Thaw a man buys a gun and shoots nine people dead - but there are ten bodies. Who killed the tenth victim - and why? Shugak may be as smart as Miss Marple, but that's where the similarities end. She is tough, tetchy, unsociable, and doesn't suffer fools gladly - but Dana Stabenow has still created a character for whom we root all the way.

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by CS Lewis

Some of my favourite scenes in the entire Chronicles of Narnia saga take place in the land of snow and ice that Lucy Pevensie finds when she goes through the back of the wardrobe. I know the arrival of spring is supposed to be a good thing in this story, but I really rather wanted that never-ending winter to do just that - never end - as it was all so beautiful and exciting. I somehow doubt that was CS Lewis' intended message, but we take from books what we will. I blame Tilda Swinton, who was such a glamorous. steely, perfect White Witch in the 2005 film.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr Seuss

I didn't have any Dr Seuss books as a child, I'm not sure why. When I started reading them to my own children, however, I loved them and their simple yet brilliantly clever rhymes. The Grinch lives on Mount Crumpit above Whoville and is a right old misery. The Whos of Whoville are always jolly and full of fun. I personally have very mixed feelings about Christmas, and also about people who are endlessly jolly, so I quite understand why Mr Grinch is a tad tetchy. It must be like watching endless Christmas toy adverts on a channel with very long ad breaks...  Apparently Seuss struggled for months with the ending of this story; he didn't want it to come over as too religious or moralising. I think he got it completely right, as although the Grinch learns that Christmas isn't all bad, the Whos also learn a thing or two about their very materialistic values. And of course it's great fun, with Seuss's unique illustrations, as always, adding so much value to the story. My copy of How the Grinch Stole Christmas has a red and white cover, so no apologies for including it here.

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

This is one of my favourite Hercule Poirot books, and again I think part of the reason for this is that it takes place on the famous train as it travels from Istanbul to Paris in midwinter. As the snow falls, the first class passengers are snug in their luxurious compartments; they enjoy the well-stocked bar and the excellent dining car. The train even has its own library. When a snowdrift brings a halt to the journey, a wealthy, obnoxious, passenger is found stabbed to death. Poirot sets out to solve the mystery and unmask the killer - or killers. I must admit I didn't find the denouement to this plot as clever as many critics have, but no matter, the setting is good enough for me. Wonderful escapism.

The Jolly Christmas Postman by Janet and Allan Ahlberg

Despite what I said re The Grinch, if there's one jolly person that I can stomach it's the Ahlbergs' lovely postman. This book was given to my son when he was little, and all three of my children enjoyed it so much. The illustrations are so engaging, and including real little letters and cards from fairy tale characters is a great idea. The numerous jokes are very funny, and put me in mind of Shrek - I love stories that can entertain adults and children at the same time. And the book has plenty of snow, a green tree and several red jackets and hoods (even before we get to the red-coated, white-bearded one himself) so its winter colour credentials are not in doubt. A children's classic if ever there was one.


  1. What a lovely post, Rosemary. I've read all of your wintery books apart from the last I think. This is because I too love a snowy setting. In fact, I created a list a few years ago, it's here: I think one of my all time favourites is The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder, a children's book but my goodness does it pack a punch. I'm a big fan of the Kate Shugak books too but haven't read any in a year or so, my next book is book 10 so I must get around to that, thanks for the reminder.

  2. Hi Cath - thanks so much, I always enjoy your posts and comments.

    I haven't read any Laura Ingalls Wilder but I will now! And I'll also read your post about snowy settings (and I think I've also missed some of your other posts, owing to having had my head down writing that exhibition review - took ages - so I'm looking forward to catching up.)

    I'm glad you enjoy Kate Shugak - I don't think I've read as many as you have, but it's good to know there are lots more to enjoy.

    The Jolly Christmas Postman is wonderful - I must admit I ended up hiding some of my children's favourite books because I just could not bear to read them again (and again...), but I was always happy to see this one.


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