I’m going to be honest from the outset and say that I wasn’t totally enamoured by this book. It was pacy, and full of dark twists, but certain things frustrated me about it. Lots of readers will enjoy it, though, so I’ll keep this review as balanced as possible – I am just one reader, after all.
A young woman working in the Cayman islands is suddenly swept off her feet when Max Winter, a wealthy senator and recent widower – arrives at the boating resort she works at. She falls head over heels for him, opting to leave her life of drudgery behind for the grandeur of Asherley, Max’s mansion on his private island in The Hamptons.
When she arrives, though, it’s clear that the memory of the first Mrs Winter – the glamorous Rebekah – is very much a presence in the house, kept alive by Dani, the Winters’ rebellious teenage daughter.
Slowly, the young bride-to-be is drawn into the family’s deepest and darkest secrets, and is forced to choose exactly where her loyalties lie.
If any of the above sounds familiar, you’ve probably read Daphne du Maurier’s novel, Rebecca, from which Lisa Gabriele has taken inspiration for her own novel.
I think this may have been the biggest obstacle to my truly enjoying this book. Though there are some overt changes – replacing the primary setting, altering some character roles, and adapting some aspects of the plot – The Winters felt too close to du Maurier’s book to me. I often really enjoy books that adapt elements of popular novels, using the authors imagination and unique style to interpret a story in new ways. Rebecca itself has close links to Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. I just think my appreciation of Rebecca was always at the fore whilst I was reading, and in The Winters, the parallels felt too obvious. For many readers, this won’t be a bother, or even noticeable if they’ve not read du Maurier’s novel. It just affected my own reading, often taking away the suspense within the story.
Characters also appeared to lack nuance: they don’t need to be likeable for me to enjoy a book, it’s more that I want to believe their role and motivation within the context of the story being told. I couldn’t fully get that here, though there were moments when I could have done if certain aspects had been explored further.
That being said, there were elements that I enjoyed and that would appeal to so many readers. For a start, it’s got a really quick pace, which gives it that page-turning quality. There are lots of twists within it, and some moments of genuine tension where I honestly didn’t know which direction that story would take. The isolation of Asherley on its island provided added to that, increasing the stakes when the narrator felt ill at ease. I also really liked how the apparent glamour and excess of the Winters’ wealth opposed that sense of chilling isolation.
Certain story strands that were unique to this book were intriguing, particularly where they concerned Dani Winter’s character. In my opinion, she was easily the most compelling figure in this book, and if aspects of her story had been developed more, it could have really lifted my enjoyment of the entire narrative.
So while this book wasn’t the right one for me, if you’re a fan of pacy, dark, sinister tales, it would be worth giving this a read. The glamour of extreme wealth in The Hamptons provides a pretty unsettling backdrop to this sinister story of betrayal.
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*The Winters, written by Lisa Gabriele, was published by Harvill Secker, an imprint of Vintage, Penguin Random House, and by Viking in the USA, in 2018.
** Thank you to the team at Vintage for sending a copy of The Winters in exchange for an honest review as part of the publication blog tour