By Emily Kallas
Grief is a constant thing. It permeates and haunts us all. Whether consciously or not, we are all dealing with and responding to some type of grief in some way. I know certainly am.
Grief from the death of loved ones. Grief from the loss of friends. Grief from a dream job turned into a toxic nightmare. Grief from the Pandemic. Grief from unending cycles of "unprecedented times"... The last few years have been especially tough, on all of us.
But grief is also timeless, and so today I want to share with you a story, told in two slightly different ways, that deals with grief at its core.
Both written by Kate Mosse, The Cave, and The Winter Ghosts, were initially published in the UK in 2009, albeit several months apart. While The Cave never crossed the pond (and is now out of print), The Winter Ghosts made its way to the states, published in February 2011.
The Cave was not only published first but was definitely written first. It was a Quick Reads selection, a program that is part of the Reading Agency, based in the UK. The Quick Reads Initiative, or Quick Reads, is part of the Reading Agency based in the UK and is a series of short books published in the UK by bestselling authors and celebrities. With no more than 128 pages, they are designed to encourage adults who do not read often or find reading difficult, to discover the joy of books. A selection of 8 new titles has been published every year since its inception in 2006.
The story follows a young man named Freddie. Originally from England, he finds himself traveling across Southern France, going through the motions of existence still very much haunted by survivor's guilt, resulting from his brother's death in WWI, nearly ten years prior. Freddie crashes his car during a sudden storm, narrowly escaping. Able to walk away from the wreck he wanders into a small, hidden town. There he meets a woman - Marie in The Caves, Fabrissa in The Winter Ghosts - who seems just as haunted as him. Their conversation is as much cathartic for Freddie as it does something to awaken a sense of purpose long since dormant.
I (unintentionally) read them in publication order - The Cave first, followed by The Winter Ghosts - and I am glad I did.
As I was first reading The Cave, I enjoyed it well enough. There were a couple of moments here and there that felt rushed; scenes that needed to breathe or have more detail were cut too short. It could have used another round of edits, whether left as a novella or expanded.
The concept was fascinating. It would also do better as a complete novel, rather than a short story. So imagine my relief (and delight) when I discovered that it was in fact an early edition of The Winter Ghosts. Knowing the reason why The Cave was published, now makes so much more sense.
It is common practice in the publishing world for various news outlets and programs to request either new pieces by an author that are complimentary to their forthcoming book, if not direct excerpts. (These requests come after publicists sent out hundreds of pitches, informing 'the media' about the upcoming book).
It is interesting, though, to see a whole early draft be not only submitted but published, as its own product. Which looks like might have happened here.
The Cave reads like it was the rough draft/ manuscript Kate initially submitted to her agents and to the publishers, never really intending this early version for public consumption. Whereas, The Winter Ghosts feels like a finished product, complete after several rounds of editing, etc.
But then the Quick Reads Agency reached out to her, and rather than having Kate write an entirely new piece, her publicist just gave Quick Reads the early submission. And Voila!
It was an interesting exercise, reading both versions of this story back to back - it is not often that that is even an option, at least not to the public reader. If The Cave was more widely available (and still in print), I could almost see these two books being taught simultaneously in a creative writing course, showing the difference between short-form and long-form storytelling.
Where The Cave was a brief 97 pages, The Winter Ghosts definitely gave the story what it needed (more room to breathe), the finished paperback coming in at 315 pages. Albeit, the story itself ends on page 263. The remaining 52 pages are dedicated to acknowledgments, author's notes, and excerpts from Kate's previous titles, Labyrinth (my personal favorite), and its sequel, Sepulchre. Also worth noting, the margins (the space between the text and the edge of the paper) in the book were wider than I felt was necessary. So even though this book is still Kate Mosse's shortest novel to date, it technically could have been shorter.
I enjoyed reading The Winter Ghosts quite a bit, my copy is now filled with tabs notating observations, along with quotes that I particularly connected with.
One issue I faced with having read The Cave immediately before The Winter Ghosts was that I knew what the plot twists would be and approximately where, so I knew what clues to look out for. While the magic of the story was still there, it didn’t quite have the same punch as it might have had, had I only read The Winter Ghosts.
At the end of the day, I definitely recommend picking up a copy of The Winter Ghosts. While Labyrinth will continue to hold its place as my favorite Kate Mosse novel, The Winter Ghosts is a worthy read - especially during the dark days of December. (Never mind me reading it in March.)
Dusted Rediscoveries Decision: The Cave: Keep. The Winter Ghosts: Keep
You can purchase your own copy of The Winter Ghosts via our Bookshop today.
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What Are Dusted Rediscoveries?
Here at Ink & 8-Bit, we have just a few books on our shelves (almost 4,000!) And most, believe it or not, have not read (yet). Since there are so many books and so little time, every once in a while, we make a point of picking up a book that we have been meaning to read but kept putting off. We named this activity "Dusted Rediscoveries".
With Dusted Rediscoveries, we select one of our "older" books, read it - either in part or completely- and decide if we want to keep the book in our collection, or if it is time for someone else to discover. We share with you our thoughts, which include whether or not we recommend you buy a copy for yourself as well as what decision we made in regard to our copy.