(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

A Girl in Winter is divided into three parts. The main action, in parts 1 and 3, takes place on a winter Saturday in the life of Katherine Lind, a twenty-two-year-old wartime refugee from an unnamed European country. The second part is a flashback to a three-week summer holiday which Katherine had taken in England six years previously.

Katherine, from whose point of view the story is told, has been in wartime England for nearly two years and has secured a routine job in a public library. The work is far below what her intelligence and education merit, and she is constantly irritated by her boss, the self-educated, boorish, and pompous Lancelot Anstey. One morning, as the novel opens, Katherine is eagerly awaiting a letter from her former pen pal, Robin Fennel. She has not seen him for six years, since the time, when they were both sixteen-year-old schoolchildren, that he had invited her to stay with his family in England. She is asked to accompany a junior employee, Miss Green, who is suffering from a toothache, to the dentist. On returning to her rooms later, she discovers the letter from Robin, who is now in the army, saying that he will be calling on her that very afternoon. Katherine is alarmed by this, however, and leaves the house without leaving any message for him.

The second and longest section of the novel flashes back to Katherine’s first taste of England, when she had stayed at the Fennels’ house in a village in Oxfordshire. Her visit was neither an outstanding success nor a...

(The entire section is 624 words.)


(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Martin, Bruce. Philip Larkin, 1978.

Motion, Andrew. Philip Larkin, 1982.

Petch, Simon. The Art of Philip Larkin, 1981.

Timms, David. Philip Larkin, 1973.