Saturday, 2 June 2012
The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
The beauty of this book was all in the magical setting. I enjoyed the story and characters, but what I will remember is Ivey's wonderful descriptions of the Alaskan winter; blizzards that shake the houses, crystallised snow flakes and crunchy walks across freshly fallen snow. I love to be transported to a different place by a story and The Snow Child definitely met this criteria. It captures the magic of winter perfectly.
I wasn't surprised to learn that The Snow Child was based on an old Russian fairytale, Snegurochka (the snow maiden) and felt that it was strongest when including these fairy tale elements. The sections describing Faina as a young child in the few winters after Mabel and Jack made the snow girl, were by far and away my favourites. I liked the suggestions that Faina might dissolve in the heat, that she had befriended a wild fox, that she had unnatural affinity with the woods. I so wanted this to be a proper, old-fashioned fairytale.
And whilst Ivey does keep parts of Faina's character deliberately obtuse so you can decide for yourself what she was, I felt as though the book really lost steam once Faina started to grow up and interact with more of the people living near Mabel and Jack. The magic started to wear off and the book became about human relationships and human issues. Although the ending of the book was interesting, the magic had long since worn off for me. I think The Snow Child would have worked much better as a novella involving only the first half or so of the book. I know lots of people have adored this book but it just didn't quite work for me.
First Published: February 2012
Score: 3.5 out of 5
1. The Winter Palace by Eva Stachnaik - This is a very different story, being a historical fiction novel of Catherine the Great of Russia, but like The Snow Child it contains wonderful descriptions of a winter setting - perfect for armchair travelling.
2. Arabian Nights by Richard Burton - I've added this purely because The Snow Child was in part a fairy tale and Arabian Nights are my favourite tales.