The Winters is a compelling, subtly atmospheric story about an unnamed young woman who gets swept off her feet by wealthy American senator Max Winter, only to realize when she moves into his estate that she must contend with his unhappy daughter Dani and the pervasive influence of Max’s first wife Rebekah. It’s a contemporary retelling of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, which I haven’t read, but have heard is one of the creepiest mystery novels ever written.
The Winters isn’t quite creepy, nor is it a page turner of a thriller. Rather, the menace in the Winter family seems to thrum just beneath the surface. Dani’s dislike of her future stepmother is evident, but there are enough clues dropped along the way that we realize that Dani isn’t the entire cause of the narrator’s problems. Max is super charming and mostly a really sweet lover, with the exception of a Beauty and the Beast-like obsession that the narrator never set foot in some areas of the estate. While he explains away his bursts of temper as simply grief over his dead wife and frustration over Dani’s brattiness, it’s soon pretty clear that he isn’t as perfect as the narrator seems to think.
I think I was expecting more of a ghostly, gothic feel to this book, but instead it felt mostly sad. Dani is such a troubled character, and the narrator is trying so hard to fit into the family, that I actually felt for them both, even as I sympathized with the narrator’s frustration over Dani’s attitude. In many ways, the story felt like a family drama playing out, where if I didn’t know the original Rebecca was supposed to be creepy, I might’ve wondered a lot more how the family dynamics would have resolved.
The last few chapters turn full-on thriller, and while the big reveal wasn’t too much of a surprise, I did like the way the story built up to it and caught me up in the narrator’s emotions.
The Winters is a compelling story, and Gabriele has created a cast of fascinating characters. I don’t know quite how it compares to Rebecca, but I really enjoyed the story overall.
Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.