Spellbindingly beautiful- 5 stars
Source- borrowed (library) copy from a friend
Hardback- 423 pages
Talk about a book you just want to crawl into and be cocooned amongst its pages…! This was an utterly beautiful, imaginative read and I adored every single word of it.
Filled with lush, poetic prose and evocative descriptions, The Snow Child recreates an old Russian folktale against a vividly drawn 1920’s Alaskan landscape.
Set across a number of years in an isolated river homestead, this slow burning yet amazingly well-crafted novel introduces us to Jack and Mabel, a married middle-aged couple who have retreated north to try and escape from their own sadness. Unable to have the one thing they desperately want, a child, they are determined to eke some sort of living from the land and try to cope in different ways with their harsh and solitary self-enforced existence. Whilst playing amidst the snow one day, they make a snow child, dressing it in mittens and a scarf. The next day, the snow child and her garments are gone, with footsteps leading away into the forest. Have Mabel and Jack actually brought their snow child to life, or are they merely imagining something they have so desperately longed for…?
What. A. Read. I can hardly believe this is a debut. I am dying to see what this author comes up with next. The protagonists were fabulously well drawn and you can literally feel the sense of despair emanating from Mabel and clearly envisage Jack’s stubborn sense of pride. The journey they undertake during this book is flawlessly done and the transition of their characters memorable. The secondary characters too, were wonderfully painted; I loved bolshy, kind-hearted Ethel and her dependable husband George. This was a book of many themes- love, marriage, childhood and friendship and all were skilfully interwoven into the facets of these great characters.
There were some other excellent literary techniques that made this novel so effortlessly appealing. I loved how the weather and landscape became symbols of the characters own moods; when Mabel was depressed or hurting the woods, river and cabin became bleak, desolate places, almost frightening in their intensity. She could only see them as a ravaged landscape. By contrast, when she was happy and hopeful she could revel in their immense beauty and all they offered. The storytelling is subtle yet spellbinding and as a reader you are fortunate enough to be pulled into the pages and witness the magic and awe of Alaska unfolding around you. This really is sensory writing at its best as you can almost feel the coldness freezing your fingertips and smell the mossy earth. I truly don’t mean to gush, but in this instance I do feel this book is worthy of just a bit of gushing!
This isn’t a fanciful, twee story by any means, despite its admittedly fairytale-esque quality. Not one single word is wasted throughout and there is a wonderful sense of ambiguity drawn around the snow child herself as the story progresses that really intrigues the reader. Like Jack and Mabel, you are left to question the little girl’s true origins and as to where she might lead them to next. In this majestic icy world, almost anything can happen.
Do yourself a favour: add this book to your ‘must read’ piles, right now- I promise you, you won’t regret it.