Frigid Fiction

Much of the U.S. last week experienced record cold temperatures — including a painful 8 degrees Fahrenheit in my town as I wrote this blog post. At least that single-digit number had the silver lining of being 443 degrees short of the burn threshold of books, according to Ray Bradbury.

Of course, the bitter weather made me think of novels in which characters face low temperatures rather than the heat that consumed books in Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. And I’m aware of having penned a somewhat similar piece about wintry literature five years ago for The Huffington Post (which treated its bloggers and commenters…coldly), but this piece has lots of new material and was written from scratch.

Among other literary attributes, cold weather and its often-accompanying dose of snow help create drama — with sheer survival sometimes at stake. Wintry fiction also makes us lament that the non-affluent are affected more by the elements than the rich. And for those reading cold-filled novels in warm homes or warm climes, it’s all vicarious — we’re not the ones freezing.

Russian novels are obviously among the first books that come to mind when thinking of fictional works with bone-chilling scenes in some or all their pages. These novels include, among many others, Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace (just ask Napoleon), Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s The House of the Dead, Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago, and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich — with the second and fourth of those books set in Siberian prison camps.

Then there are Scandinavian novels (a number of them mysteries) with teeth-chattering locales — for instance, Stieg Larsson’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Peter Hoeg’s Smilla’s Sense of Snow, and John Ajvide Lindqvist’s Harbor.

And Canadian literature has plenty of shivering scenarios in novels ranging from Louise Penny’s How the Light Gets In to Mordecai Richler’s Solomon Gursky Is Dead (Jewish guy among the Eskimos!), to cite just two examples.

But authors from many other countries have obviously also tackled the cold — including Jack London in The Call of the Wild and White Fang, Charlotte Bronte in Jane Eyre, Herman Melville in Pierre, Edith Wharton in Ethan Frome, Willa Cather in My Antonia, Erich Maria Remarque in Spark of Life, L.M. Montgomery in The Blue Castle, Rita Mae Brown in Rubyfruit Jungle, Donna Tartt in The Secret History, Fannie Flagg in A Redbird Christmas, Jhumpa Lahiri in The Namesake, Audrey Niffenegger in The Time Traveler’s Wife, Maria Semple in Where’d You Go, Bernadette (which actually takes its characters to Antarctica), Joyce Carol Oates in Solstice, Alistair MacLean in Where Eagles Dare, Stephen King in The Shining, Lee Child in the Jack Reacher novel 61 Hours, and Andy Weir in The Martian.

Short stories with cold and snow? Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Match Girl” (freezing was never so tragically poignant), James Joyce’s “The Dead,” Tolstoy’s “Master and Man,” London’s “To Build a Fire,” etc.!

What are your favorite fictional works with wintry elements?

My 2017 literary-trivia book is described and can be purchased here: Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Authors and the Greatest Novels of All Time.

In addition to this weekly blog, I write the award-winning “Montclairvoyant” topical-humor column for The latest weekly piece — guest-written by my cat 🙂 — is here.

103 thoughts on “Frigid Fiction

  1. You have indeed mentioned all of mine. Zhivago. BRRRR. Jack London. BRR and GRRR in White Fang. Oh the Little MAtch Girl. I still have my battered copy of Anderson I got for Christmas when I was seven. Indeed I would’t call it a fairy tale as such but then they were all pretty grimm… I always got shivery reading Oscar Wilde’s the Happy Prince. At the end it is cold and the swallow has not flown to where it’s warm. Winter has come indeed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for the comment, Best Tongkat Ali!

      That’s one of the strange things about climate change — overall, the world is getting warmer, but the planet’s weather systems are going through so much turmoil because of climate change that it at times gets colder in some places — and some colder places have winter storms that are more severe. 😦


  2. Dave Astor, “What are your favorite fictional works with wintry elements?” then he goes on to name ALL the good ones, PFFT! You know Dave one day you’ll post an XMEN comic page and I’ll leave you in the dust! 😀

    Surprisingly this was not a hard topic because I actually read a book with “wintry elements.” Martin Cruz Smith’s Gorky Park thriller takes place during the COLD war with the murders of three ice skaters near a pond.

    The book gives the reader a glimpse into the COLD realities of corruption, espionage, and lack value of human life so prominent in Russia during that era.

    Now, where is my parka? it’s damn COLD today.

    As always typos/grammaticals* are made with love for all to enjoy.

    Great post Dave.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Jack! 🙂

      You made an excellent point about how I sometimes name too many books — leaving fewer for commenters to mention. I’ve been trying to write shorter posts in recent months partly for that reason.

      Glad you mentioned “Gorky Park”! I haven’t read it, but the Moscow locale alone can make a person feel chilly.

      Thanks for the comment — a nice “wintry mix” of seriousness, cleverness, and humor. (Ha — I know absolutely nothing about the X-Men series. 🙂 )

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Frigid fiction in disguise:

    I remember reading about Nikos Kazantzakis writing Zorba the Greek– an act he undertook during winter in the Second World War. At the time, the German occupiers had sent most of the year’s harvest to Germany, leaving tens of thousands of Greeks to starve. Fuel was also scarce, so all in the Kazantzakis household hunkered down under blankets, sleeping as long as they could, whenever they weren’t scrounging for food or fuel, thus saving energy and warmth. Most of the book, counterintuitively, given that it ripples with warmth and hope, was written in bed.

    Liked by 2 people

    • So interesting, jhNY! Nikos Kazantzakis’ imagination taking him “someplace” other than the miserable situation he and his household were in.

      Reminds me a bit of the way the title character in “Pierre” wrote his book within that Herman Melville novel. Authored in a bitterly cold room, but, unlike “Zorba,” Pierre’s resulting manuscript was…just as bitter as the room.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Most of the cold literary moments have possessed a cold, serious, and sometimes tragic tone to them, understandably so, considering how deadly harsh winter can be. However, one literary episode that puts a humorous twist on that motif is a passage from Mark Twain’s ‘Roughing It’. It of course illustrates perfectly some of MT’s themes of irony and human nature but it’s also sort of an anti-“To Build a Fire”, although written probably 50 years before that Jack London story. It’s been over 20 years since I read it so my memory is not extremely clear but I recall that it’s when Mark and some of his gold-mining buddies get stuck in the snow at night. Fortunately, to aid my memory, I found the novel online and the episode takes up Chapters 32 and 33 of the book. Here are the links:

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Brian, for the comment and links!

      Yes, most scenes of bitter cold in literature are pretty serious, but those two chapters (which I just read) certainly mixed in plenty of trademark Twain humor along with the more weighty passages. Trying to start a fire by shooting at sticks! Caught in a blinding snowstorm just a few feet from unseen shelter! Etc. 🙂


      • I remember reading an account of the Blizzard of ’88 (1888) that claimed a man was found frozen in the act of mounting his horse– also frozen– after the storm had passed.

        Blizzards are in part so dangerous to be out and about in because of zero visibility. I’d imagine there are any number of incidences reported through history of folks freezing within a few steps of safety.

        Had forgotten this portion of Roughing It, though in fairness, I’ve forgotten a good deal of the rest of it too– my mother read it to us 5-plus decades ago…wonderful to be reminded. Thanks, Brian!

        Liked by 2 people

  5. Having bought, but not yet read Dinesen’s Winter’s Tales, I cannot report on its contents– but that titles reminds me of something I read re ghost stories in 19th century England:
    It seems ghost stories were read around the fire at Christmas, the family gathered round and shivering together– at the images conjured up in those stories, or from the cold, or both. Dickens wrote his “A Christmas Carol” to be one of such stories read in the season, which became, over the years, the most popular, and then the only such story to get a reading at Yuletime.

    Since winter was a time of mending and tending, rather than planting and field work, there was, in that long season, opportunity for the old ones to charm the little ones with folk tales and songs, etc. My guess is that the cold weather kept folks close to a fire if they had one, and that, around the fire is where most stories and songs and poems, etc., were recited and heard for most of civilization.

    So, in a way, ‘frigid tales’ might describe much of our oral tradition worldwide, and many of our post-alphabet tales as well. I know I like reading while cozy and warm best of all– but then that may be because I am a hidebound traditionalist. And traditionally, hide makes a good barrier against the cold!

    Liked by 1 person

    • A wonderful, really interesting comment, jhNY.

      I hadn’t thought of the oral tradition being tied to cold weather in colder climes, but that makes total sense. I guess another oral-tradition strand existed in warmer climes (Africa, for instance).


      • Realized I was being all Eurocentric after I wrote this, so its universality is a bit less than. Still, it gets cold in deserts and mountains too, so other parts of the globe count too. Guess in tropical areas, the rainy season would be a rough equivalent.

        Guess it also means that the first leisure time we had was weather-made, and not of our choosing.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Yes, the rainy season does sound like it would be the equivalent in tropical places, and you’re right that it can get cold almost anywhere (such as Florida earlier this month).

          Weather definitely does have a big impact on all kinds of things.


  6. Off-topic, but, an abiding mutual interest between us, Dave, compels me to provide this link

    to a story I happened on in the Daily Mail today. You will see many acquaintances from your old life herein!

    Funny thing is– they didn’t even have a complete list of all who would qualify! In the comments section below, a fellow Fairfelder wrote he knows a realtor who recently came upon ‘Nancy’ drawings by the inimitable (and good thing too!) Ernie Bushmiller on the wall of a prospective sale.

    And I happen to know a family who lived there and knew “The New Yorker” cartoonist Richard Taylor well– he too lived in Fairfield County CT!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, jhNY! Great, illustrated piece — sort of like another piece I read (in Vanity Fair?) about this Connecticut cartoonist grouping.

      I was lucky to catch the tail end of that grouping, visiting Connecticut a number of times in the ’80s, ’90s, and ’00s when I covered cartooning. Mort Walker’s house and studio (where Mount Rushmore sculptor Gutzon Borglum once worked) is amazing. I last visited Mort in 2013, just before he turned 90. He’s still going in 2018. A VERY nice guy.

      “Nancy” drawings on a wall? Wow! Reminds me a bit of when “Peanuts” creator Charles Schulz lived briefly in Colorado he drew on the wall of his baby’s nursery. The wall was later painted over, and then what was underneath was eventually discovered. The wall was taken out and put in the Santa Rosa, Calif.-based Schulz Museum, which barely survived the recent wildfires.

      Lest I get too nostalgic, that Connecticut cartoonist grouping was virtually all white and male — a different time, I guess.


      • In the late 1970’s, I was hired to play on an anti-Nixon tune (“Boycott the Memoir! Don’t Buy Books by Crooks!”) that an adman of my acquaintance, Dan Paisley, had written in fury after learning that Tricky Dick planned a big payday for himself and one more turn in the limelight with the publication of his memoirs. We were all at the time living in DC, and made the recording there, but Paisley, as admen can, managed to attract the interest of the press to his ditty, and a week or so later, we were invited to the local ABC affiliate here in New York to perform (actually to miMe and lip-sync) the song on teevee.

        Our reward was a night’s stay in Times Square’s fabled yet not fabulous Edison Hotel before our show, and after, to eat in The Palm Restaurant. On the walls of the Palm, situated at least during the early years of the 20th century near several newspaper offices, were drawings from cartoonists of the era– often pictures of each other, little sight gags, caricatures of the contemporarily famous in sports and politics, etc. Wish I could remember names and specifics, but a big steak and a lot of table chatter kept my eyes too often elsewhere…

        Wonder if those drawings still exist?

        “Lest I get too nostalgic, that Connecticut cartoonist grouping was virtually all white and male — a different time, I guess.”

        Well, way back when, even Miss Lonelyhearts was a man….also white.

        Liked by 1 person

        • What a (Nixon-related) story, jhNY! Thanks for sharing it!

          I was at The Palm several times in the ’80s and ’90s for cartoonist gatherings, and the drawings were definitely on the walls back then. No idea whether the art or the restaurant itself are still there. If closed, I imagine the drawings went to a museum or something. (Ohio State has the biggest cartoon museum in the country.) Impressive atmosphere at The Palm.

          Excellent point about “Miss” Lonelyhearts!


  7. Another interesting subject! War and Peace, of course, yes, who can forget that exhilarating troika ride with Nikolay, Natasha and Sonya.
    In the category short stories I nominate the perfect story The Snowstorm (The Blizzard) by Pushkin and a whole set of winter stories, A Winter Book by the Finnish writer Tove Jansson.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Hi Dave,

    “Jane Eyre” was one of the first books that I thought of. Those poor girls at Lowood really didn’t have a good time.

    I thought of several other books, however Elena mentioned every single one of them in the second paragraph of her comment! (And probably more eloquently than anything I would have said.) I guess the cold in places like Westeros and Narnia are more than a little memorable.

    Kat Lib – I’m not sure if you’ll see this comment here, but I’m surprised you’re not already a big fan of K.D. Lang. She seems like the type of artist that you’d admire. I completely agree with Dave’s recommendation to check out “Constant Craving”. Especially a live and / or acoustic version.

    Lastly, I must say that it’s hard to think too much about cold and wintery things as it’s 34 degrees here (93ish in your language) and SO humid. My poor kitty kat is struggling to find anywhere cool to sleep 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Sue! Yes, those Lowood girls — including Jane and Helen — were treated so badly, thanks to rich-but-cheap religious hypocrite Mr. Brocklehurst. Plus I remember a snow scene later in the novel, after Jane left Rochester.

      Wow — it IS hot where you are in Australia. 😦 Hope you, and your cat, get some relief soon.


  9. When I was a kid, the book “Hatchet” was always one of my favorites. Not everyone knows that there was actually a sequel called “Brian’s Winter.” It detailed what would have happened had he not been rescued at the end of the first book (spoiler!), and how he might have survived the winter in the Canadian wilderness. The cold was very much a character in that novel, and as a result, it always stuck with me! Growing up in Iowa, cold became my bitter enemy and now I live happily in Southern California 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, M.B., for your thoughts on “Hatchet” and its sequel! “The cold was very much a character in that novel” — great line, and VERY true for some books.

      Definitely different weather in Iowa and Southern California. 🙂 My wife went to Grinnell, and remembers some rather cold times!

      Liked by 1 person

        • Too cold! 🙂 But my wife liked Grinnell, and, having grown up in Michigan, the Iowa weather wasn’t a huge shock for her.

          My only time in Iowa was when I attended a conference in Iowa City a number of years ago.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Ah yes, I went to Drake University in Des Moines, IA for two years, and I didn’t find it terribly cold and snowy, at least as compared to Minneapolis. The weird thing about both was the dress code. In high school, the girls had to wear skirts and pantyhose, no matter what the weather was. There were no school buses, only city transport, walking or be driven. I lucked out with making a friend who had a car and would pick me up and drive me home.

            When I went to Drake, I joined a sorority (for some unknown reason that escapes me now), and we had the same dress code, including even going into Dogtown, where the bookstore and other stores were.

            It was such a relief when I transferred to University of Texas at Austin, but didn’t transfer my membership in the sorority, and my wardrobe decisions boiled down to mostly feeling the hermetically sealed dorm room window and usually wearing either long jeans, a long sleeved shirt and moccasins if cool; or cut-offs, a T-shirt and sandals if warm. So much simpler! 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

  10. I thought of Ethan Frome immediately. I started ” Girl With Dragoon Tattoo” over wintry weekend, yes, I know it came out 10 years ago, I have not even seen film so no spoiler alerts! Appropriate to start book as it commences in December for winter. Will be bone chilling I infer so good book for this time of year!

    A song that puts a snow storm in my head that is haunting is by KD Lang called Barefoot. I can paint a story in my mind when I hear that song, its so beautiful in my opinion and has multi layered meaning that can bring me to tears. The howling brings chills in different ways.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Michele!

      “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” and its two sequels by Stieg Larsson are amazing. It takes a few chapters for stuff to really get going, but, once it does, that trilogy was one of the most page-turning things I’ve ever read. I’ve avoided the other “sequels” by a different author; for one thing, I think the late Larsson’s partner was against them or not allowed to be involved with them.

      That song and video are indeed beautiful and haunting — and melancholy. Thanks for linking to it!


              • Thanks to all for sharing music by KD Lang, and it was quite beautiful. I suppose I always thought of her as a modern country singer, and I’ve never found that as something I really wanted to listen to. My main interests are folk, rock, show tunes, movie soundtracks, and classical. There are some other things that I enjoy, e.g., jazz, blues, new age and other genres that I can only listen to in small doses. So, I had to sign up for Sirius FM yesterday in my new car, and I chose the Bruce Springsteen station. I’m quite eclectic in my tastes for anything, whether it’s books or music or films, but I’ve come to think that that’s a good thing!

                Liked by 1 person

                • You have wide literary and musical interests, Kat Lib! And that IS a good thing. 🙂

                  I guess Lang is one of those artists (like Taylor Swift, Shania Twain, Darius Rucker, The Dixie Chicks, etc.) who have done some country-ish songs and some non-country-ish songs!


  11. Awesome list, and I particularly enjoyed the mention of “Smilla’s Sense of Snow,” which I just reread. And speaking of Nordic fiction, the Finnish writer (of course!) Vaino Linna has some great wintry scenes in his “The Unknown Soldier,” about the Finnish front in WWII, and his epic trilogy “Here Under the North Star.” Naturally there is also plenty of Finnish stuff about the Winter War between Finland and the USSR.

    As for the Russian/Russian language, I heartily second the inclusion of War & Peace, and would add that “Anna Karenina” begins in the winter and there is that lovely scene when Anna is riding home on the train and presses the cold paper-knife against her hot cheek, and then again when she sees Vronsky coming out of the snowstorm at the station.

    For more contemporary Russian-language writing, I have to add Varlam Shalamov’s “Kolyma Tales” to the list of camp literature dealing with camp life in the winter. Some truly harrowing stuff about working in timbering and building camps during the winter in Siberia. Another scene that will freeze your socks off is Mikail Eldin’s account in “The Sky Wept Fire: My Life as a Chechen Freedom Fighter” of the Chechen retreat from Grozny through a mine field and under heavy Russian fire in late January/early February 2000. I’ve talked to Mikail a couple of times and have him lined up as a guest speaker for one of my classes this spring; certainly hearing first-hand accounts of that kind of thing makes a powerful impression.

    And for something a little more symbolic, there’s plenty of wonderful wintry stuff in fantasy. George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series (AKA Game of Thrones), with its motto “Winter is Coming,” is tremendous, and Phillip Pullman’s “The Golden Compass,” the first book in the trilogy “His Dark Materials,” involves a haunting trip to Svalbard and the Arctic. Of course “The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe,” is set in winter, as is much of “The Fellowship of the Ring.”

    I have to finish with a mention of Eowyn Ivey’s “The Snow Child,” a semi-fantastic novel based on the Russian legend of the snow maiden, but set in Alaska.

    There’s just so much one could say on this topic, but I don’t want to freeze myself any more than I already have! It also got down to 8 degrees F here in my part of North Carolina yesterday morning (25 degrees colder than Williston, North Dakota, where I have family), but is currently a warm and balmy 27, and is expected to get above freezing later today.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Elena, for the terrific, VERY wide-ranging comment!

      “Smilla’s Sense of Snow” is haunting, quirky, and more. Not many novels quite like it. And I appreciate the mention of Vaino Linna, an author I wasn’t familiar with. (I’ve never been to Finland, but got somewhat close to it when in St. Petersburg years ago. Fortunately in the summer… 🙂 )

      Speaking of Russia, excellent/evocative “Anna Karenina” mention! And thanks for also mentioning some contemporary Russian-language writers. Great that you’ve talked with Mikail Eldin; hearing about harrowing experiences firsthand is definitely powerful.

      And, yes, the fantasy category is well-represented when it comes to cold and snow. I’m also thinking of that huge snowstorm that occurs relatively early in Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings.” The “Harry Potter” series has its wintry scenes as well.

      Amazing how cold it also got in the southeastern U.S. Colder than North Dakota — wow!!! Even parts of Florida got some snow. Glad it’s warming up where you are in North Carolina, as it is today where I am in New Jersey.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you very much for the kind words, Sharol!

      “…a powerful tale of hubris and fate” — perfect description of “To Build a Fire”! That short story is absolutely gripping. When Jack London is at his best — in that tale, and in novels such as “The Call of the Wild,” “White Fang,” “The Sea-Wolf,” and “Martin Eden” — calling him page-turning is an understatement. 🙂


  12. I’ve read several of the books you mentioned in your post, Dave, and having trouble thinking of another cold fiction I’ve read. I loved the non-fiction book Winterdance: The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod by Gary Paulsen. And I just read, “Katy and the Big Snow” to my grandsons – a classic children’s story by Virginia Lee Burton. As a side note, I’ve been living the cold life to the extreme here in eastern Maine. We have set several records over the past few days, not even reaching zero at the warmest part of the day and having unbearable wind chill factors. This morning it is 11 degrees above zero and I’m excited! Double digits on the plus side. Wow!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Shallow Reflections! Glad you also brought up nonfiction and children’s books — so much cold and snow in some of them, too!

      A couple of others I can think of offhand are Sir Edmund Hillary’s memoir of climbing Mount Everest and Raymond Briggs’ kid classic “The Snowman,” about a snowman that comes alive, which was also made into a wonderful animated special.

      And I’ve heard about the weather in Maine — terrible. 😦 Makes New Jersey’s several 10-or-so-degree days last week seem like The Equator. A cold Equator, but still… 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Your suggestions sound intriguing, Dave. Another nonfiction that just came to my mind is a book about the plane crash in the Andes – Alive by Piers Paul Read. It was disturbing but I couldn’t put it down. And as for the weather. Once the numbers drop to 10 or below, it doesn’t matter how much colder it gets. It is unbearable!

        Liked by 1 person

        • I think I’ve heard of “Alive.” It does sound disturbing but can’t-put-down-able. I suppose some books about expeditions to the North Pole a century or so ago must be similarly compelling.

          Somewhat warmer weather this week, at least!

          Liked by 1 person

      • Dave, I’d also like to mention a non-fiction book: “Into the Air” by Jon Krakauer about his experience in climbing Mt. Everest. It was fascinating but also maddening, when one thinks about the trash that is left behind by the climbers and the risk that the Sherpa’s underwent all of the time.

        I just thought of one of my favorite young adult novels, which is “Mrs. Mike,” first published in 1947 about a young girl from Boston who travels to Calgary from Boston for health reasons, but ends up marrying Mike Flannigan, a sergeant in the Canadian Mounted Police. It is above all else, a love story, and one that captured my heart at age 13 or 14.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Kat Lib, “Into the Air” does sounds fascinating — and frustrating (to read about the trash and what the Sherpas go through).

          And your mention of “Mrs. Mike” and the impact it had on you in your early teens is a great reminder of how some books can have a huge/positive effect on people that age!


        • My mother and I both loved Mrs. Mike!

          And I have to share one of my more frightening experiences, related to a different Krakauer book, “Into the Wild”, about someone who dies of starvation and exposure in Alaska. I was foolishly reading it while hiking a section of the West Highland Way in January during heavy snow and wind. A number of other parties actually died that week that we were hiking and we could hear the fruitless helicopter searches going on as we hiked. Anyway, our group was supposed to pick up more food at the hostel we were staying at (The West Highland Way is, while remote for Britain, conveniently supplied with hostels and B&Bs every few miles), since we had run out. It had all been arranged but we didn’t actually have the food yet and I started panicking as I was sitting there reading the book, overcome with a primal dread of starvation and cold.

          Obviously, we did not die,although we did get caught in gale force winds. Luckily the cheese and chutney sandwiches that were plentifully supplied just as promised powered us through.

          Liked by 2 people

      • If we are talking non-fiction, Dead Mountain by Donnie Eichar, is an excellent account of the Dyatlov Pass incident. A person searching for an answer to the mystery retraces the hiker’s path and goes through the hypotheses for the tragedy. He ends up drawing plausible conclusions.

        Liked by 1 person

  13. Yes, Dave, it’s certainly frigid here in Philly as well. I do keep my thermostat set at a reasonably warm 70 degrees. However, my pets seem to differ on that decision. My dog Willow, when not under the fleece blanket with me, lies in her doggie bed or right in front of the vent in my den, and my kitty Jessie lies right on top of the vent in my living area. Dogs and cats aren’t very stupid when it comes to their comfort!

    As far as novels go, I think you’ve mentioned 9 or so authors I’ve read. I’ve enjoyed all of Louise Penny’s books, many of which are set in the very cold and snowy village of Three Pines. Peter Hoeg’s “Smilla’s Sense of Snow” captures the very essence of ice and snow, and I actually felt cold while reading it. I’ve read a lot of Scandinavian crime fiction, including Stieg Larsson, but one of my favorites is the series written by Jo Nesbo, and for the standout “The Snowman,” He has some standalones, but so far I’ve stuck to his series about Harry Hole.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Kat Lib! Yes, many parts of the country — including the Philadelphia area — have been slammed with frigid weather.

      The heat in my apartment might be 70 or so, too. I have no control over it — it’s usually way too hot, and wasteful energy-wise, but it came in handy last week.

      Cats, dogs, etc., definitely like their warmth. 🙂 In the house I used to live in, one of the radiators had a flat vented cover, and that’s where my late cat Angus — like your cat Jessie on your vent — would often sleep during winter days.

      And thanks for mentioning those books and authors, including Jo Nesbo, who I haven’t gotten to yet. The riveting “Smilla’s Sense of Snow” definitely induces a feeling of cold as much or more than any other novel!


      • Elsa Morante’s “History: A Novel” contains a moving scene of a young Italian soldier freezing to death on the Russian front.

        Also: Gogol’s “The Overcoat”, since without one a brutal Russian winter might become deadly.

        Liked by 1 person

  14. Howdy, Dave!

    — What are your favorite fictional works with wintry elements? —

    With its ample cast of characters engaged in multiple plots in various settings within the 17th-century Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth — encompassing the frequently frigid western reaches of the Eurasian Steppe (including either large or small pieces of the 21st-century Eastern European countries of Belarus, Russia and Ukraine — Henryk Sienkiewicz’s “Trilogy” (“With Fire and Sword,” “The Deluge” and “Fire in the Steppe”) is a masterwork for all seasons, so it is understandable that its many scenes of winter are as bone-chilling as any others in the whole of world literature, the memories of which tempt me to throw another log on the fire here and now at the Cabin in the Sky, despite my landlord’s many advisories to the contrary . . .

    J.J. (Alias MugRuith1)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, J.J.! I know you’ve mentioned Sienkiewicz’s trilogy several times, and I’m glad when you do! It sounds absolutely fantastic. It’s great when novels are so sweeping that all four seasons are covered — perhaps many times over. I hope I, and others commenters here, get to Sienkiewicz’s fiction one of these days.

      Great summary of the trilogy, and I loved your comment’s comedic ending. 🙂


    • Thank you, Tony! “The Cat in the Hat” is definitely one of the great children’s books that mention cold weather. I imagine if it were snow rather than rain that day those two Dr. Seuss kids would have been outside when The Cat arrived. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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