Eowyn Ivey’s first novel, The Snow Child, is so wonderful that I am very nearly lost for words.
Early in the 1920s Mabel and Jack move to Alaska. They are middle-aged and childless, and they know that, after a still-birth, they are unlikely to ever have a child to raise.
They plan a new life.
That new life is hard. Their homestead is isolated, their land is difficult to work, and as winter comes their food stocks are perilously low.
But Mabel and Jack have hope, and they see beauty in the world around them and they love their new way of life.
When the first snow of the winter arrives, they are captivated. they become children again, running in the snow and throwing snowballs. And then they build a child from snow.
When they wake the next morning the snow child has vanished. And then Jack catches a glimpse of a little girl running through the trees.
The child is elusive, but in time she comes closer to Mabel and Jack. And a part of her will become theirs, but a part of her will always belong to the cold countryside that she came from …
This is a simple story, inspired by an old Russian folk story, and it is magical in the very best way.
The storytelling is simple, clear, and lovely. It sets out a timeless tale, among beautiful images of the natural world and of life on a lonely homestead.
I saw the beauty, and I understood the danger, of the snowbound countryside. I understood what drew Mabel and Jack to Alaska, and what held them their, despite the isolation and the hardships.
And my heart was filled with so many emotions as the story of Mabel, Jack and the snow child unfolded.
Theirs was a simple story that said so much about what is important in life.
About the relationship between man and the natural world.
About the desire to have children, and to create something that will endure.
About the importance of friends, neighbours and communities.
And about marriage, and how it works.
And I was charmed by the snow child, by her ease in the natural world, by her otherworldliness, and by her simple humanity and vulnerability. I understood completely why Mabel and Jack so wanted to take her in and give her a home.
But I also understood that she was different.
That she belonged in the snowy landscapes, that she was at home in the Alaskan countryside that came to life as the pages turned.
The story held me from the first page to the last, and I really don’t want to let it go.
It is timeless, and full of real beauty and real emotion.
And so good that I was almost lost for words.
She couldn’t come in because she would melt, right? So was part of the ‘moral of the story’ that sometimes to truly love things you have to give them their freedom?
Something like that Tui, but rather more subtle and with more to say about humanity and the world along the way.
This sounds like a must read then, Jane. I do wish I’d been named Eowyn as well.
This sounds like a beautiful story!
It is, and there’s real substance too.
It sounds as though you enjoyed this one as much as I did. I don’t know how I’m ever going to write a review for this one 🙂
If you’re still looking for a future classic Jackie, I think this could be it.
I’ve made a note of this one as I think it might be a beautiful book to read for my American states challenge.
I’m so glad our library system has this on order, and I’m the first in line to get it. I’ve read such glowing reviews.
Ohh, wow! I am wishlisting this immediately.
What a wonderful review to read on a dark December day on my way to work.
I’m glad you enjoyed this book as much as I did. It’s such a beautiful, magical story and I loved all the winter imagery. I’m sure it’s going to be a big success in 2012!
You make this sound amazing! Definitely adding it to the wishlist.
I’m so glad you enjoyed this as much as I did. It almost left me lost for words too – the review I wrote doesn’t come close to doing it justice.
It’s funny you’re reading Mircale on Regent Street too now 🙂 I loved that one too – perfect for right now.
This novel is going to be published in France (my home country) in January. I am looking forward to reading it. However, your book cover is much nicer than the French one.
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Loved this book! It was so beautifully written.
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