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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
by Jean-Claude Mourlevat
Age Range: 14+
When seventeen-year-old Helen decides to visit her Consoler Paula, her friend Milena acts as her companion. When Helen discovers that Milena has vanished she is at first horrified and then angry for the consequences will be severe in their prison-like boarding school where they have been for nearly fifteen years. Controlled by numerous rules and ruthless teachers, another pupil will now be punished and sent to the dreaded ‘Sky’, a detention cell underneath the cellars where there is no natural light – so called, because it has a single strip of blue sky that has been painted on the beam to give those incarcerated there courage as they get a brief glimpse before the door closes – where they will remain until Milena returns.
Through a secretly arranged rendezvous with Milos, Helen learns that Milena and his friend Bartolomeo have gone on the run to take up the fight against the tyrannical government that murdered their parents many years earlier. Van Vlyck, the leading figure in the Phalange Movement is paying a visit and all the teachers are at the event. Helen and Milos take the opportunity to rescue Catharina from the ‘Sky’ and decide to escape as well. Fleeing across icy mountains from Bombardone Mills and his terrifying pack of dog-men, sent to hunt them down, only three of the friends make it safely to Jahn’s restaurant, the headquarters of a secret resistance movement. It is here that Milena learns that she possesses a remarkable gift, one that may free a depressed and terrified nation from a generation of cruelty. The teenagers are prepared to sacrifice everything in their fight for freedom.
Jean-Claude Mourlevat’s novel is genuinely original. It is a powerful story of courage and freedom set against an oppressive government. Winter Song has already been translated into numerous languages and is the winner of the highly prestigious Prix Saint Exupery.