A Girl in Winter by Philip Larkin, dramatized by Richard Stevens

Contact Us

Classic Serial on BBC Radio 4

BBC Radio 4, 7 April 2013
First published in 1946, A Girl in Winter focuses on Katherine Lind (Carolyn Genzkow), a German exile trying to adjust to the pressures of living in a provincial British suburban town.
Fiona McAlpine's production made ingenious use of music to contrast the ideals and realities.  Every sequence was linked by snatches of songs by Billie Holiday, Fred Astaire and others, all of which portrayed an ideal world  (for example, Irving Berlin's "Isn't This a Lovely Day.")  Katherine's life was far from idealistic, as she tried to make her way in a dead-end job in a library, with a boss Mr. Anstey (Nicholas Woodeson) who seemed to take a sadistic pleasure in telling her off.  Her personal life was equally difficult; although not overtly displaying their feelings, most of the English people treated her with contempt, as someone to be shunned rather than embraced. 
Yet McAlpine's production did not try to blame anyone for this problem; perhaps it was just inevitable in a post-1945 world, where no one knew for certain whether life would return "to normal."  Robin Fennel (Jolyon Coy) was undoubtedly attracted to Katherine, yet found himself unable to reveal his true feelings.  If he did so, then perhaps he would end up disappointed.  To invoke a phrase coined by E. M. Forster, this production focused on the need for people to learn how to "only connect" - to set aside their differences, neuroses and other hang-ups and learn to treat one another on their own terms.
For the greater part of the adaptation, it seemed that this would never happen.  Katherine confided many of her innermost thoughts in letters sent to friends back home; in public she kept up her guard to protect herself against any form of exploitation, whether verbal or physical.  She only let it down for a brief moment at the end, when Robin finally acknowledged his true feelings towards her.  There was no guarantee that the two of them would continue to love one another, but they decided to experience the sensations of the moment rather than making any long-term plans.
A Girl in Winter conjured up a barren world in which very little of note actually happened.  In such a world - reminiscent of films released during the period such as Brief Encounter - anyone who was brave enough to display their affections deserved to be congratulated.  We felt optimistic as the production ended: while nothing might come of Katherine and Robin's affair, at least they made efforts to transform the winter atmosphere into something more summery.