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The Snow Child - Eowyn Ivey

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Author: Eowyn Ivey / Format: Paperback / Date of publication: 30 August 2012 / Genre: Modern & Contemporary Fiction / Publisher: Headline Publishing Group / Title: The Snow Child / ISBN 13: 9780755380534 / ISBN 10: 0755380534

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      12.02.2014 22:17
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      A lovely, fairy-tale based story that is a nice winter read!

      'The Snow Child' is a fantasy novel by Eowyn Ivey. This is another book I bought on Kindle over Christmas due to its low price (99p off the Kindle Store), rave reviews and an interesting, fairly-tale like premise- a perfect read for winter!

      ==---Plot---==

      Jack and Mabel are a middle-aged, childless couple who have relocated to Alaska during the 1920s to start a new life. However, their move seems to not have benefitted them at all; Jack is struggling to find work and gather food before the harsh Alaskan winter arrives, while Mabel is lonely and frustrated waiting at home for a husband she is increasingly distant from. One day when it snows, the couple decide to build a little girl out of snow, going as far as to dress her with a scarf and mittens.

      The next day, the snow girl has gone. On top of that, Jack and Mabel both begin catching sight of girl in the forests near their house- a girl similar to the child they made in the snow. As time moves on, the old couple are drawn to this child, as if she is the daughter they always wanted...but will they be able to hold onto her?

      ==---Opinion---==

      'The Snow Child' definitely did not disappoint. Whilst it moved more slowly than I expected, as it takes several chapters to for the titular snow child to be revealed in full, I felt the slow pace adds to the atmosphere of the novel. I have never been to Alaska and probably never will, yet Eowyn Ivey easily brings its solitary, wintery forests to life. You easily get a feel of how dangerous and harsh the land is to our characters, especially in the dead of winter.

      Jack and Mabel are well-written, sympathetic characters who I could relate to despite their flaws. Mabel in particular is a depressed, frustrated woman; having come from an affluent social background she has decided to escape to Alaska with Jack to avoid the social stigma of childlessness. The novel begins with her contemplating suicide on the ice, which shows her poor state of mind. Likewise, Jack is a well-meaning husband but seems unable to connect with his wife, and what's more his age and lack of a son make it difficult to provide for the two of them over the Alaskan midwinter. I liked how their reactions to the snow child's appearance differed, because it displays their relationship and personalities: Mabel believes she really is the girl they formed in the snow and immediately fusses over her as a mother would, whereas Jack is more cynical about her origins and eventually learns off where exactly the girl has come from. As for the snow child, who is christened Faina by Jack & Mabel, she is a quiet girl with a real air of mystery about her, helped by the lack of quotation marks whenever she speaks in the book. Yet she somehow survives living in the forest by herself while managing to change Jack & Mabel's lives for the better, so she's definitely a stronger person than she looks.

      As the story progresses and the characters get older, you get the real sense that something might happen to Faina and I became eager to see if anything dangerous would happen when more characters became aware of her existence. As this book is based on a fairy tale, references to the original story are brought up and it leads Mabel to worry about Faina's possible fate. Fortunately this book cannot and does not follow the fairy tale to the letter and I felt the ending was a poignant and satisfying take on the original's conclusion.

      ==---Overall---==

      'The Snow Child' is a beautiful story. I loved how it mixes the realism of 1920s Alaska with the magical elements of a fairy tale. If you enjoy stories with fairy tale elements then certainly try this book out. The relaxed pacing means that it can be quite a slow-burner, but the brilliant setting and atmosphere should still draw readers in and not bore them.

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      15.01.2014 22:19
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      A beautiful story

      *** Please note the cover of the book is different to that shown here ***

      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
      The story of the snow child...
      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
      Mabel and Jack, a couple in their late 40s, move to Alaska to be on their own. Still grieving the loss of a stillborn baby 10 years before, Mabel wants solitude and to be away from Jack's family who blame her for their childlessness.

      But life in Alaska is hard and the couple struggle every day in the unforgiving environment. They hardly speak, and there is a real sense of sadness about them. The coldness of the landscape is reflected in their relationship.

      But then one evening it snows, and Jack and Mabel build a little snow child, complete with mittens and scarf. The next day the mittens and scarf are gone, and the snow child melted away. But then Jack and Mabel start to see glimpses of a little girl in the snow....

      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~
      A beautiful fairytale
      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~
      I thought this book was beautiful and the Alaskan landscape is described in such vivid detail that you can feel the chill. The characters are constantly coming home with frozen hair and beards, and snow in their boots. The snow child gives the story a fairytale feel, and this novel is in fact based on an old fairy story - a book that Mabel has in the novel. All the dialogue involving the snow child lacks quotation marks, making her seem somewhat unreal and mysterious. It is quite a magical story, and although not overdone there are little hints that the snow child has some magical element to her and is of another world, as she lives out in the wild.

      ~~~~~~~~~~
      A slow-burner
      ~~~~~~~~~~
      This is not a book for those of you that like action-packed page turners. This is a slow-burner, with a lot of the text relating to the landscape, weather and hunting. But this for me was all part of the beauty of the story. It is very sad in places, but there is hope and humour from Jack and Mabel's boisterous neighbours - particularly Esther who is very unladylike (the book is set in the 1920s). Their son Garrett also has a part to play later in the book, adding another dimension to the novel.

      ~~~~~~~~~
      In summary
      ~~~~~~~~~
      I absolutely loved this book - I found it a beautiful, sad, yet hopeful read and I was disappointed to discover the author is yet to write another novel! I would definitely recommend this novel - but not to those who like non-stop action and fast paced thrillers - this won't be for you! But if you want to be transported to a beautiful but chilly landscape and meet some lovely characters - including a fairytale snow child - then give this a go.

      The Snow Child is currently £3.85 in paperback from amazon - and a mere 99p on the Kindle.

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        06.02.2013 17:37
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        A fabulously evocative winter read

        The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey is the story of a middle-aged couple named Jack and Mabel, who move to a remote part of Alaska in the 1920s to escape the heartbreak of their past and to attempt to build a new life for themselves. Both my Mum and my sister read this book over the Christmas holidays and absolutely loved it, so when I was passed their copy to read, I was already anticipating a really good read. The problem with anticipation, of course, is that there is also that small fear that something that you expect to love will turn out to be disappointing. Fortunately, that is not the case with 'The Snow Child' - this is a story that pulled me in right from the very beginning and kept me hooked until the final page.

        The story begins deep in the Alaskan wilderness. It is Autumn and Mabel is home alone, left in silence apart from the occasional sound from the birds outside. Right from the outset, the writing style is very evocative, with the remoteness of her surroundings mirroring the emptiness in her heart following the heartbreak of being unable to have a child of her own. Jack and Mabel are a couple who are struggling to adapt to both their new surroundings, and their childless state - they are attempting to start up a farm in an environment which seems hostile to farming for much of the year and surviving the harsh Alaskan winter is already beginning to look like a real challenge. On top of that, they are lonely and isolated, through choice as much as circumstances, and the reader is immediately moved to sympathise for their plight. However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel - Thanksgiving brings the first glimpses of new friendships and, it is the first fall of fresh snow which proves a life-changing event for the couple. Without giving too much of the story away, it is that snowfall which ultimately brings a mysterious little girl on to their land. And, through that little girl, they find hope and, eventually, love.

        The characters in the story are all very well developed and I felt a real empathy for them. Mabel is a woman who is in the depths of a deep sadness and at the start of the novel you feel as though there is nowhere that she can turn. Her relationship with Jack is struggling to survive due to everything that they have endured and, although they clearly had a deep love for each other, there is no real physical intimacy between them anymore. Jack is perhaps a typical strong male character, getting on with what he has to do for them to survive, because that is all he can do. When Jack meets George Benson on a trip into town, this proves a catalyst for change in the story. The Bensons are everything that Jack and Mabel aren't, they are a warm, affectionate, boisterous, loving family and, this contrast provides a very interesting element to the story. This is especially true as the friendship develops between Mabel and Esther. Despite their vastly different backgrounds and experiences, their friendship is one of those genuine female friendships which runs through the book and adds an extra element of warmth amongst the bleakness of the landscape. Perhaps the most interesting character is Faina, the 'snow child' of the title. She is portrayed as a real mystery, there is always an element of magic and enchantment about her presence and you never know exactly where she came from or why she is there.

        'The Snow Child' is a story which I genuinely loved. The characters are brilliantly written, the descriptive language really draws a picture of the Alaskan landscape and there is enough mystery and suspense to keep you turning the pages right to the very end. This is a compelling tale of hope, love and a little bit of magic, a true fairy tale for grown-ups. There is enough 'reality' in the incredible descriptions of the Alaskan wilderness, the relationships between the adult characters and the trials and tribulations of trying to make a living on this type of land, to make it much more than 'just' a fairy tale, but I do believe that that is essentially what it is. There is a link, mentioned several times in the story, to an old Russian fairy tale - the Snow Princess - which I vaguely remember reading as a child. If you are familiar with this fairy tale, then it is virtually impossible not to see the connection between the two stories, but that is clearly the author's intention in this novel. Fortunately, I didn't remember the Snow Princess well enough to predict exactly what was going to happen - I definitely had an inkling of what 'might' happen as the story reached its conclusion, but it wasn't something that spoilt my enjoyment of the book. In fact, I think it contributed to my love of the story as I really liked the mystical, fairy-tale element of it all.

        Overall, this is a book that I wouldn't hesitate to recommend. It is beautifully written, a story which pulls you in, keeps you enthralled and tugs hard at your heart strings. It is a story which makes you smile, which makes you hope and want to believe, and a story which makes you cry. If you want a book to curl up with on a cold winter's evening, with a big mug of hot chocolate, and lose yourself in the story, then this is definitely one to choose.

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          16.12.2012 21:54
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          A beautiful enchanting read

          I'm not normally a huge fan of fantasy style novels, preferring my books to be slightly more rooted in day to day reality. My Mum, however, passed on her copy of the Snow Child after being totally engrossed in the story for a few weeks and urged me to read it.

          Snow Child is, quite simply, a modern day fairy tale for adults. Everything, from the haunting front cover to the story hidden within, is beautiful and a delight to uncover. The author Eowyn Ivey, at the end of this, her debut novel, openly acknowledges that the story borrows heavily from a traditional Russian fairy tale and this is frequently referred to during the story.

          This magical and mystical tale surrounds a childless couple, Jack and Mabel, trying to make a new life for themselves in a very harsh and unforgiving Alaskan setting during the 1920's. One day the couple try to lighten the bleak Alaskan Winter by fashioning an image of a little girl out of snow and, from then on, find themselves catching glimpses of a mysterious young girl, flitting in and out of the landscape. From then on, the couple, just like the readers, are desperate to discover just who this little girl is, how she is managing to survive these harsh conditions and whether she really could be the snow child brought to life by a couple's desperation for a child of their own.

          Despite knowing very little about the location or the era where this story is set, I found that the author really managed to paint a vivid picture and transported me straight to the heart of the story, so that I could empathise completely with Mabel and her struggles to survive in this environment. The story flowed beautifully, with little details unfolding in a very gentle, but fascinating way. This is not an 'edge of your seat' read, by any means but it is still totally compelling. I found myself reading this over just three nights, as I was so desperate to uncover the true identity of this magical little girl and to discover just how events would turn out.

          I found myself really enjoying this story and particularly warmed to Esther and her large brood of boisterous boys, who comes bursting into Mabel's life bringing with her some much needed warmth and excitement. I think it is actually Esther, as much as the mysterious Snow Child, who really brings Mabel and her husband to life, both as characters and individuals within the story.

          The only slight issue for potential readers is that the ending is very ambiguous, leaving lots of unanswered questions about both the past and the future. I'm not sure how else I would have wanted the story to end, however, as I think this rather vague and ethereal ending is actually perfectly in keeping with the whimsical and magical nature of the story as a whole.

          The paperback is currently available for just £3.86 from Amazon. At that price, this would make a lovely present for somebody special to snuggle up during these cold Winter nights.

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            13.07.2012 01:02
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            It's almost literature perfection

            One book that I've been enjoying recently recently is The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey. It was given to me as a birthday present in May because people who know me, know that I really love reading and the person who bought it me had a gut feeling that I would love this book.

            The events in the novel are set in 1920 in Alaska, now. I've never been to Alaska before, but I've heard about the place. So reading the novel gave me a very vivid description of what Alaska looked like. The story is also based on a fairy tale under the same name, I hadn't read the Russian fairy tale until after I read the book and having read the original fairy tale I believe that it is a faithful and creative adaption. Although based on a fairy tale, I think the main audience for this novel is adults.

            The novel focuses on a childless couple named Mabel and Jack. Some could assume that they should be happy. The first world war had finished two years ago and they've lived together for a long time and surrounded by beautiful and delicate snow. But there's one thing that missing in their perfect little family, a child. They're reaching the end of their youth and Mabel fails to commit suicide. That alone already showed me that Mabel and Jack's relationship is really strong, but struggles to convince a child has lead them both to be drifted apart and their situation becomes more dire with the finical problems on top.

            I already feel sorry for the couple because Ivey paints a really vivid picture of the characters and their emotions to the point that they feel real. I honestly wanted to have a miracle child or at least have Mabel fall pregnant. It's been a while since I last read a novel and it made me really want the characters to have a happy life. I really wanted them to have that happy ending. It really does a brilliant job combining reality with fairy tales.

            So one day to lift the spirits up, Jack and Mabel build a snowman which turns out to look just like a little girl. This scene was really cute and touching because it shows that their desire to have a child still burns. Even though the story is sad, it appears that the snow child they create comes to life in the form of a girl named Faina. I thought this was a delight because it lead to me thinking that Jack and Mabel can finally get the happiness they deserve. Romance isn't the key focus on story and the story isn't all fairies and rainbows either. The novel shows how friendship, bonds and the power of love are put to the test.

            This book has already had a lot of praise for Ivey's atmospheric style, imagination and powerful characters. Others on the other felt that part three of the book did not live up to the other two parts and felt that it was slow paced and riddled with cliches. Parts of it I semi agree with, it may be slow paced and perhaps did have some cliches, but this didn't effect my reading experience for The Snow Child whatsoever. So on the contrary I thought the pace was just about right. I would say that the mystical elements in the story are not as impressive as the beauty and realism in the story, particularly in the third part, but I still enjoyed it nevertheless.

            The prose is a big stregnth here, I think the underlying sorrow and winter atmosphere blended wonderfully together and the writing style made the tone so mature. I still thought a lot of the moments in the book were very suspenseful and my curiosity made me want to turn the pages to see what happens. As mentioned before, Ivey made me really care for the characters and there were a lot of paragraphs that were beautifully written and created a winter atmosphere. So as you can tell I loved this book and would recommend it because I think that it's worth a read. I do see myself reading this book again.

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            17.04.2012 16:25
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            A moving, compelling take on an old fairy tale and an insight into the pain of loss and infertlity

            In the bookstore, I picked up this book, attracted as I was to the cover and read the blurb at the back. I was instantly intrigued. A far cry from my usual thrillers, this book attracted me for an entirely different reason. Early last year my own infant son, and only child died, and it was for the this reason I bought the book and took it home to read.

            As we open the book, we are instantly drawn into the harsh lives of middle-aged Jack and Mabel, living in the cold, cruel and unrelenting 1920's Alaska.

            The basis of the story is the Russian Fairytale of a childless couple, who one day build a snow-girl and she comes to life. The ending of the story varies from tale to tale, but the concept itself is played out brilliantly in The Snow Child without sounding pretentious or unbelievable.

            I read the entire book in 1 night, I literally could not put it down. As I followed the story of Jack and Mabel, I truly felt the harshness and barrenness of their lives in Alaska, echoed compellingly in the harshness of their childlessness and the barrenness of Mabel's womb. When Faina, the snow child, enters their life, Eowyn Ivey, accurately portrays the desperation, the pure desire and need for her to stay and become a part of their lives.

            While some people may read the Snow Child and not understand Mabel's unrelenting NEED to have a child of her own, and how much it utterly consumes her life, I think Ivey's account of this feeling is truthful and compelling. As an infertile woman, with no living children who has suffered the loss of my only and much loved child, I can honestly say that the emotions portrayed by Ivey in this book are as close as you can get to experienced that agonizing, ever obsessive torment without going through it yourself.

            There was a lot of tears as I read The Snow Child, a book that echoed so many of my own feelings and pain. As the book drew to a close, I found myself desperate to know the outcome. What would happen to Faina?

            And while the true identity of the Faina, the snow child remains a mystery, the entire book left me feeling both sad and uplifted, upset and yet exquisitely satisfied with everything that had happened.

            Ivey's skill as a writer shines through this book, her ability to weave mystery slowly into her story, and yet keep the reader hooked throughout. How she knew how to portray Mabel's feelings, I will never know, perhaps she spoke to other women, or perhaps she simply used her skill as a writer to empathize and imagine that situation. But however she did it, I was moved by her words and her story telling skills. And it is a book I will keep in my book case for a long time to come.

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            10.01.2012 11:46
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            A Stunning tale where brutal, harsh living and fairytales collide

            When childless couple Jack and Mabel decide to move to a homestead in the brutal landscape of 1920's Alaska, their aim is to put their heartache behind them, start a new life and save their marriage. But life is tougher than either of them imagines and as they run into financial difficulties and extreme isolation it looks like they have no option but to move back to civilisation and accept the experience as another unfulfilled dream.

            Then one cold night during a heavy snowfall, Mabel and Jack enjoy a moment of playfulness and joy and together they craft a child out of the snow, Mabel even going so far as to dress it in a warm hat and mittens. The next morning the snow child has gone, but that's when they start to glimpse a mysterious young, blonde girl running through the forest, which surrounds their home and at the same time their fortunes change and the homestead begins to thrive.

            Over the years the little girl, Faina, grows to trust the couple and they begin to look on her like a daughter. Yet none of the neighbours knows of this child, who runs feral through the woods and disappears each spring when the snow begins to melt. Mabel is reminded of a fairytale her father read her as a child, but surely it is just that, a story, and the tragic ending couldn't play out in real life?

            One of the very best things about being invited to join the Amazon Vine program (where products and pre-releases are offered to selected members to review) has been the chance to sample and discover amazing books I probably wouldn't have come across otherwise. Over the last year I've felt as though I've read a lot of the same kind of books and had become a little jaded about reading. The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey is one of the surprise books that re-ignited my reading flame and has prompted me to read more widely once again.

            I was drawn to this book by the romance of the publisher's synopsis and the contrast between the harsh, brutal reality of life on a 1920's Alaskan homestead and a fairytale child. With its roots in Russian folklore, the story of The Snow Child doesn't disappoint and is both magical and heartbreaking. It has the feel of a real old fashioned myth and is breathtakingly beautiful to read.

            The characters of Mabel and Jack are painfully realistic and well developed. From the very beginning you can sense their acute pain and longing. Little moments and glances between the couple drive home the despair they feel at their crumbling marriage and my heart went out to them. Mabel's isolation in particular was depicted so perfectly I could feel it myself. Considering we meet the couple in middle age, I think the author's ability to establish such a strong bond and history between the pair was nothing short of remarkable. Despite their difficulties, the tenderness and love they share is beautiful in a very subtle and believable way.

            The setting too was also nothing short of breathtaking. Eowyn Ivey manages to get across the beauty and ferocity of the Alaskan wilderness and life for those trying to not only survive but also earn a living and raise a family in their unwelcoming surroundings. The contrast between the fairytalesque Faina and the brutal honesty of this harsh existence is simply stunning. I'm going to say as little as possible about the enigmatic Faina, who is central to this story, for fear of spoiling the book for anyone else. I will say that I loved her and she stole my heart completely.

            The Snow Child quite simply blew me away. The writing is beautiful, evocative and atmospheric; it's difficult to believe that this is Ivey's debut and is certainly a huge accomplishment. Both heartrendingly sad and eerily, subtly magical, this is an enthralling read from start to finish. This book is perfect for being swept into another world, curled up in front of a blazing fire and allowing hours to pass you by as you find yourself lost in the pages. I loved everything about this book and recommend it highly.

            Published by Headline February 2012.

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