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A Grown Up Fairy Tale
The Snow Child - Eowyn Ivey
Member Name: KLockwood75
The Snow Child - Eowyn Ivey
Advantages: Beautifully written, great story, a real page turner
Disadvantages: I finished it!
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.
Summary: A fabulously evocative winter read