When Nights Were Cold

Written by Susanna Jones
Review by Claire Cowling

In the early 20th century, Grace Farringdon breaks with the inhibitive practices of her family and society, which held women in the Victorian private sphere of the home. Inspired by expeditions of Scott and Shackleton, she forges for herself a university place, forming an uneasy friendship with three other female ‘explorers’, while her sister, Catherine, suffers unwanted domestic incarceration and drifts towards depression and insanity. In the late 1930s, Grace Farringdon, ex-mountaineer, recluse and last surviving member of the university exploration friendship group, hides from prying public eyes and her own knowledge of the fateful events surrounding the deaths of her friends in their bid to prove themselves capable in a male-dominated world. But finally, she is ready to explain.

Susanna Jones writes a disturbingly chilling thriller. Structurally, it conveys clearly-narrated events in the early 1900s, as they are remembered by Grace, yet deconstructs itself during Grave’s ‘present day’ stream of consciousness narrative in which she wrestles with the psychological consequences of past events. Thematically, it powerfully conveys the difficulties of an all-female community which struggles against the controversies over suffragism and feminism and acknowledges the psychological trauma which surrounds the difficulties turn-of-the-century women had in moving beyond accepted gender roles. This is a thoroughly recommended read which haunts the reader well beyond the end of the novel, forcing us to question the very nature of morality and criminality. It is a thoroughly recommended read.