A Girl in Winter Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1947

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Psychological realism

Time of work: The mid-1930’s and early 1940’s

Locale: A provincial town and a village in England

Characters DiscussedKatherine Lind

Katherine Girl in Winter, ALind, a foreign girl visiting in England. Twenty-two years old, Katherine is a refugee from an unnamed European country. Her home near the Rhine has been invaded by the British. Katherine is pale, with dark hair and a shield-shaped face. She has dark eyes, high cheekbones, and a wide mouth with full lips. She has returned to England, having previously spent a three-week summer holiday with the Fennels in Oxfordshire six years earlier. Lonely and isolated for the nearly two years she has been back in England, she lives above a chemist’s shop and works as a temporary assistant librarian. She has not notified the Fennels of her return, but when she reads that Jane’s child has died, she writes a letter of sympathy. Asked to escort Miss Green to the dentist, Katherine takes her afterward to her own apartment, where a note from Robin has been delivered. Prevented from keeping her appointment with Robin because she mistakenly picked up the wrong handbag at the chemist and feels obliged to retrieve Miss Green’s purse, Katherine vows to live without the pain and disappointment that such a reunion likely would bring. Katherine recognizes that she has lost the romanticism of youth and settles instead for self-protective pessimism.

Robin Fennel

Robin Fennel, Katherine’s English pen pal. Dark and slight, Robin possesses long eyelashes and bowlegs. Idolized by Katherine, he treats her as would a schoolboy, with courteous reserve and consideration but not romantically. When she is saved by him from toppling into the water, Katherine falls in love with him, even though his sister claims he is dull and ordinary. On the last night of Katherine’s summer visit, Robin awkwardly kisses her. When war breaks out, he joins the army and spends fourteen months as an artilleryman. Having not seen Katherine for six years, Robin writes her to say he will call on her that afternoon. He slips away without leave from his military post with the intention of sleeping with Katherine, leaving a friend to cover his absence. He attempts to force kisses on her but cannot arouse an amorous response from her.

Jane Fennel

Jane Fennel, Robin’s older sister. She left school at the age of sixteen and went to technical college to learn shorthand and typing. She then worked at an insurance office for a year and subsequently for her father. When Katherine meets her, Jane is without an occupation and always acts as chaperon to Katherine and Robin. She is a small and bony young woman who is rude to Katherine during her stay at the Fennels’ home. Although Robin has been Katherine’s pen pal, it is actually Jane who encouraged Robin to invite Katherine to stay with the family for the summer. Although she lacks Katherine’s romantic illusions, she agrees to marry Jack Stormalong to escape the boredom of home. Jane’s daughter, Lucy Katherine, is named in part for Katherine Lind, but the child is born with a defective heart and dies.

Jack Stormalong

Jack Stormalong, a young, fast-talking friend of the Fennels. About twenty-five years old, Jack stands more than six feet tall and drives a sports car. He has short, wavy, oily hair and blue eyes, and his front teeth protrude. He has been tiger hunting in India, and his visit to the Fennels removes Katherine as the center of attention.

Lancelot Anstey

Lancelot Anstey, Katherine’s fussy and irritable boss, the head librarian. Thin and about forty years old, Anstey has a narrow face and oiled hair. A widower–his wife died five years previously–he smokes a pipe and is a boorish and pompous man. Katherine discovers that he is secretly courting Miss Parbury when she finds an unsigned letter in his handwriting in Miss Parbury’s purse.

Miss Green

Miss Green, a junior librarian about sixteen years old. She has the reputation of a gossip at work. Although she lives with her mother, when she suffers from a toothache she is directed to a dentist by Katherine, who is quite considerate of Miss Green’s suffering.

Miss Veronica Parbury

Miss Veronica Parbury, the owner of the handbag that Katherine mistakenly picks up when buying aspirin for Miss Green. About thirty years old, she lives with her invalid mother who has had a stroke.

Miss Holloway

Miss Holloway, a library cataloger. She has crisp black hair and horned spectacles. She is Katherine’s well-informed but unemotional colleague.

Rylands

Rylands, the previous head of the library. Young and well-educated with a university degree, he left the library to become a soldier.

BibliographyMartin, Bruce. Philip Larkin, 1978.Motion, Andrew. Philip Larkin, 1982.Petch, Simon. The Art of Philip Larkin, 1981.Timms, David. Philip Larkin, 1973.
Categories: Characters