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In Fall we see the tentative beginnings of an unlikely romance – between schoolteacher Amy and drifting former graduate, Charles. In Winter we hear how her colleague Howard learns, seventeen years too late, that he has a daughter following a brief fling with collegemate Annie. Spring and Summer tell the story of his daughter’s friend Rachel’s relationships with her literature teacher, Stuart, and her dying father Reuben.
Executed with exquisite sympathy, tenderness and emotional nuance, Either Side of Winter is a moving and elegiac picture of people whose lives are inextricably linked by circumstance, community – and a need to be loved.
This is a writer who has considered the world, how to describe it, with seemingly infinite care ... there is so much tenderness, remarkable in its understanding. It is a very good sign when you come away from fiction thinking, who else could have written about these people? This book suggests a real depth of reading, and emotional sentience, in its author. It is wholly American in tone, but hardly in its worldly scope. There is a flavour of Thurber's lonelier stories, perhaps an affinity with the beautiful short novels of WM Spackman, shades of William Gaddis. But it is written in an original, pliant, elegant prose that one immediately trusts ... It is difficult to overstress the depth and intelligence, the achievement of this book ... It is very human, astonishing, superb; and, what is more important, sublime.
[In] Benjamin Markovits's delicate novel ... there is a deeply flowing harmony between his characters' emotional states and their surroundings ... they are lonely and isolated, even in the midst of their closest relationships, and Markovits's most remarkable achievement is to give them rich, darkly shaded inner lives.
The changing of the seasons are often a metaphor for wider emotional fluctuations in fiction, but American writer Benjamin Markovits takes such literary conventions to astonishing levels of detail and redolence ... It's in the intricacies of the relationships where Markovits really succeeds; all these people are loved but can never return such devotion, and are trapped by convention. This is a book for all seasons.
Lyrical and painfully moving ... A great read.
All of Markovits's characters are lost and looking for love in one sense or another; most frequently the sense in which love is supposed to be able to affirm the self, to lend direction and meaning to confused lives. As in reality, however, things are never this simple, and love, in Markovits's novel, is always difficult and slightly askew. Pupils and teachers, fathers and daughters, mismatched couples, muddled sexualities are all the stuff of the richly painted inner lives of his wonderful characters ... [His] prose is expertly attuned to the demands of the (often complex and ambiguous) emotional landscapes of which the book is composed, and which are its principal achievement ... intimate, subtle and beguiling.
'Benjamin Markovits never falls into simply fondling the emotional curves of the privileged, or luxuriating in the kinds of detail which occasionally distract Updike. Much more than The Syme Papers, this feels like the the work of a novelist at ease with, but not complacent about, his subject matter, that subject being a much larger and darker question - of how we ever get close to people who see us so differently from how we see ourselves.'
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