Cover detail of wintering-by-katherine-may showing a drawing of a landscape

Wintering by Katherine May

Welcome to Day 5 of #12booksofchristmas. Today I have a non-fiction offering for you and it's a beauty! In case you have missed any of the previous days #12booksofchristmas, they are listed below!

At the time of writing this review, my thoughts are turning to Autumn and all the golden leaves, pumpkins, crisp mornings and pumpkin spice lattes that it holds. I’ve had my eye on this little gem of a book. It was longlisted for the Wainwright Prize in 2020. And one day in late August, when the weather suddenly seemed a little chiller and the contestants for Strictly were starting to be announced (a true sign that Autumn is coming!), it was the perfect day to start this book.

Plot (From the Back)

Wintering is a poignant and comforting meditation on the fallow periods of life. Times when we must retreat to care for and repair ourselves. Katherine May thoughtfully shows us how to come through these times with the wisdom of knowing that, like the seasons, our winters and summers are the ebb and flow of life.

My Thoughts

I was a bookseller for 13 years and I would have no idea how to classify this. It’s part memoir, part natural history, part meditation and a wellness book. It could literally sit in about 5 different sections in one bookshop. But this is part of its charm.

After having a pretty horrendous time in her life, Katherine May ‘winters’ and this is made up of a number of different parts. She takes inspiration from the Finns who begin their winter preparations in August, chopping wood and preparing the home, to be ready for the brutal winters. She meditates on the industry of bees and their activities throughout the year to ensure they all arrive safe at the end of the winter. Contrasting this with Aesop’s fable about the Ant and the cricket. Reminding us that we can strike a fine balance between preparation for winter and enjoying time in the sun. The whole book serves as a meditation on life - its ebbs and flows, it’s time to embrace the sun, relax and enjoy and then to hunker down in the darker times.

There is a chapter about the Robin and what he symbolises and snow with all of its beauty and cruelty. Along the way are chats about some of my favourite books - The Dark is Rising and The Box of Delights.

Read my Review of The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper

Read my review of The Box of Delights by John Masefield

The book is quite simply beautiful. It is very much of the now and is extremely meditative. It is divided into chapters ranging from September through to January. It writes in an understated way, quiet as snow and reminded me very much of Nigel Slater’s Christmas Chronicles, which sought to encourage us to nourish ourselves through food and enjoyment of the season. Just like the trees we can then bloom in the spring. Simple, Beautiful, a book for our own winter moments.