Publisher: Headline Review
Buy: Hardback, Paperback, Kindle
Source: Review copy
A middle-aged couple, Mabel and Jack, are about to endure their second Alaskan winter. Far from their families, they are trying to make a life for themselves farming land that for much of the time is either too frozen or too wet. With Jack labouring all day, Mabel is left in their cabin, remembering a lost child and contemplating whether to take a walk across the barely frozen nearby river.
Yet, when the first snow falls, Jack and Mabel are enchanted and for the first time in a long, long while they play together and build with great care a snow girl, complete with red lips, red mittens and scarf and yellow hair. The next morning, the snow child is gone and, when they begin to catch sight of a young girl in the trees, watching them, Mabel becomes convinced that the child is a snow girl, brought to life, just like the snow child fairy tale in the Russian book that she treasures, even though she can’t read a word.
The Snow Child is a wonderful novel. Wonderful. Extraordinarily, it is Eowyn Ivey’s first book, something that is quite incredible as you realise that not a word is superfluous and not a sentence detracts from the beauty of the story and its characters, not to mention the atmosphere of the harsh but magnificent Alaskan setting. As the story unfolds, there is something inspirational and very moving about Mabel’s rediscovery of herself and her husband and her new found love affair with this most beautiful and ultimately giving of environments. As for the snow child herself, there’s every chance that you’ll fall as much in love with her as Mabel and Jack.
I don’t want to talk too much about the story of The Snow Child because the novel’s mystery is entrancing. There are few characters, not surprisingly considering that it is set in such a remote part of the world in a time (the thirties) when deprivation and hardship caused many to give up their dreams and return to the cities. The people who survive in Alaska have to adapt, be able to live off the land and its animals for food and warmth, and must find comfort where they can. The ties that bind Mabel to her husband, neighbours, the girl and even her family back home, are tender and unbreakable.
Eowyn Ivey’s prose is truly bewitching and at times you may catch your breath, smile or cry a little. She has achieved the sophisticated air of simplicity and naturalness while going straight to the heart of her fully-rounded, breathing characters, yet still always making sure that the Alaskan environment is never more than a cabin wall from us, even when we read this novel wrapped up and snug in our homes. It is a marvellous achievement and Eowyn Ivey has a great talent which we must watch in the years to come. The fact that Eowyn lives in Alaska and clearly knows and understands it brilliantly well is apparent in every page.
I’ve read many novels this year but The Snow Child ranks high among them and I don’t think I’m going to forget it. The book isn’t out until February 2012 so I’ll make sure I remind you of it again nearer the time.
Huge thanks to my good friend Liz for the read.
Next to The Help, this was my favourite book of the year. LOVE LOVE LOVED it! Can’t wait to share it with fellow Aussies.
Hi there! It’s such a beautiful book, I’m not surprised it’s creating such a wave of excitement in the months leading up to its publication. I’m so pleased I’ve been able to review it and shout its praises! Thanks for commenting and hello to you over there in Australia!
I am reading this right now and if it carries on this way it will become my favourite read of 2011 – isn’t it wonderful?
Hi there Book Whisperer! It’s definitely one of my favourites of 2011 as well. I can see it being one of these books I’ll reread when it’s wintry and cold. It is very wonderful 🙂
Thank you for the wonderful privilege to comment on Eowyn and her book. I have just returned from five days of visiting her, my son, and my fantastic Alaskan granddaughters. I thank God that an ad in a magazine in 1968 enticed me to go to Alaska with my wife and children. My church there, the town itself, and Sam and Eowyn’s home are all surreal to me now — no doubt a part of heaven. Hauled water, bountiful chopped wood in a shed, sledding trails all over the place, picked berries, fresh made jam, sourdough pancakes, moose, caribou, and salmon to eat. I knew for years before Eowyn started her novel that she was a writing genius. Her book is the best I have read: Moby Dick and The Old Man and The Sea are close seconds. Jim
Jim, thank you so much for your comment! I am so thrilled that you took the time. Alaska to me is a dream, somewhere I have always wanted to go – and I will make it! What you describe sounds so fantastic to me! You must be so, so proud of Eowyn. What an incredible achievement. I feel a little bit nearer to Alaska thanks to her book. I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next. It’s amazing that an a took you there back in ’68! One of those messages…. I’m waiting for one of those. Thanks again and do thank Eowyn for me for this brilliant novel. What a gift!