Episode 19: The Snow by Hugh Walpole

Hugh Walpole was an English novelist born in New Zealand in 1884 and died in June 1941. His father was a clergyman and he was intended originally for a career as a clergyman but he  preferred writing and wrote his first novel in 1909. He was a prolific writer and wrote a novel a year. In common with many writers of ghost stories he was actually gay. He ended up living in the English Lake District not far from where I am now. And I often drive by his house. I have a particular tradition of driving on that side of the lake on New Year’s Eve and looking down at the Christmas lights from the heights. The house certainly has a wonderful view and I would quite like to live there though I could never afford it. He ended up living with a policeman at the time when such things were illegal in England.

Reading The Snow particularly after reading a number of Victorian novels, I found the style refreshingly modern and so it was actually quite easy to read. It presents a snapshot of upper-class English life in the provinces. Walpole  settled in Cumberland and though he gives his Cathedral town a made up name I can’t help but see the Cathedral precincts of Carlisle Cathedral when he’s describing the scene.

Alice Ryder seems a vain, selfish, cruel woman, and certainly the first time I read the story, I thought she got her just deserts. But then when editing the audio, I came to the part where she speculates that the ghost of Elinor might in fact be there hovering about, and causing her to lose her temper with Herbert. And then I gained a little sympathy for her.

Then again, the ghost warns her not to lose her temper with Herbert because if she does, it will be for the last time.  And what do you know – she goes on and loses her temper. Herbert maintains his quiet dignity and is rather a sympathetic character. 

Though Alice Ryder is portrayed as quite the bitch, the first Mrs Ryder was no saint either. Herbert tells Alice that his first wife Elinor would never let go and though she adored him, he hinted that her tenacious fidelity was a bit overbearing.

So which of the Mrs Ryders is the real villain here? Is it the young, vain, bitchy Mrs Ryder or the controlling unforgiving elder one?

This week’s story was quite short compared with usual and recent ones but I enjoyed it nevertheless. I have been very busy in my life and I know that this week coming up I will be in London for three days so I wanted to get this in the can. One of the things we’re going to do when we are there In London is to see the adaptation of Ghost Stories which is supposed to be very scary and is the talk of the West End. I’m not sure it has been to Broadway but I’m sure it has. It premiered in Liverpool.

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