I’ve decided not to write about my best books of 2012 in any sort of order – though I have one or two that stand out as favourites I’ve decided not to do a Top 10, or to write chronologically. However, by chance, the first book in my Best of 2012 series was published in January, though I reviewed it in June (see my review here). When Nights Were Cold by Susanna Jones came to my attention as one of Fiction Uncovered’s picks for the best British fiction of the year. I had high expectations for this novel, due to Fiction Uncovered’s description, and was not disappointed.
The very beginning of the twentieth century is a fascinating period that is sometimes overlooked in favour of the Victorian era and World War Two, so I was intrigued by the choice. Suffrage and women’s independence play an important if underlying role in When Nights Were Cold, and the ways in which we cope with our ever-changing world. I loved the female characters’ desire for adventure, and their ambition to live as they pleased. Grace Farringdon is classic and brilliant unreliable narrator, looking back at the events of the story after many years.
There are three key settings that I loved: Candlin Women’s College, where Grace goes to study and meets the members of her Antarctic Exploration Society; the mountains of Wales and the Alps; and Grace’s family home in London, a place filled with memories and dreams. All are vividly brought to life by Jones, and all are are as dramatic as the events that take place in them.
When Nights Were Cold is not the best book I have ever read, but I couldn’t help loving it and recommending it to people I know. A wonderful mix of themes, characters, time periods and plot twists place this book firmly in my best of 2012. Also, I bloody love the cover. Always a good thing.
When Nights Were Cold was published in January 2012 by Mantle, an imprint of Pan Macmillan. My copy was kindly provided by the publisher for review.