Bookish Thoughts as the Year Ends

Try as I might I can’t distill a year of wonderful reading into lists.

But I can answer a few questions from The Perpetual Page Turner

Best Book of 2011

I have read some wonderful books this year, but if I have to single out just one, the book closest to my heart is The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey.

Worst Book of 2011

Oh dear. It has to be What They do in the Dark by Amanda Coe. It started beautifully, it had so much potential, but good ideas were ruined as things were taken much, much too far.

Most Disappointing Book of 2011

I have loved Susan Hill‘s crime novels in the past but I was disappointed in her most recent, The Betrayal of Trust. The plot and the characters came a very poor second to themes that the author clearly had strong feelings about but pushed much too hard for me.

Most Surprising (in a good way) Book of 2011

The idea of a novel in verse scared me, but Lettice Delmer by Susan Miles was a Persephone Book, it had appeared in a library sale, and so I gave it the benefit of the doubt. And I found a troubling story quite brilliantly told.

Book Recommended Most in 2011

I found Ten Days of Christmas by Gladys Bronwyn Stern in a bargain bin. It had no dust jacket, no synopsis, and so I did a few searches to try to find out more, but I couldn’t find anyone who had written about it. So I read, I wrote , and I’ve noticed a good few people have ordered copies and a couple more reviews have appeared. I really am thrilled.

Best Series You Discovered in 2011

I read and loved The Return of Captain John Emmett last year, and so I was eager to read Elizabeth Speller‘s second novel, The Strange Fate of Kitty Easton. I was surprised, and delighted to meet Lawrence Bartram again, to see his story progress, and to notice some very interesting hints about where his story might go next.

Favourite New Author in 2011

I’ve found a few new authors I want to keep tabs on, but if I’m going to pick out one I think it must be Rachel Hore. I read The Gathering Storm, I fell in love with her writing, and now I have an intriguing backlist to explore.

Most Hilarious Read in 2011

I am not a great lover of comic writing, but there’s something about Molly Keane, Time After Time was dark, sad, grotesque, and yet very, very funny.

Most Thrilling, Unputdownable Book of 2011

I was intrigued and confounded by True Things About Me by Deborah Kay Davies. I just couldn’t work out who this woman was, why she did the things she did.

Book Most Anticipated in 2011

Greenbanks by Dorothy Whipple was surely the most eagerly waited reissue of 2011. And it more than lived up to some very high expectations.

Favourite Cover of a Book in 2011

Most Memorable Character in 2011

Oh, Miss Ranskill! I shall never forget you, and I shall never forget The Carpenter. Barbara Euphan Todd told your story so well in Miss Ranskill Comes Home.

Most Beautifully Written Book in 2011

That would be a book I’m still reading. Vanessa Gebbie’s novel, The Coward’s Tale, uses words – their meanings, their sounds, their rhythms – quite brilliantly. I even find myself reading with a Welsh accent …

Book That Had the Greatest Impact on You in 2011

I was intrigued from the first moment I saw No Surrender by Constance Maud. A suffragette novel! I realised how little I really knew, and this book has inspired me to find out more – The Virago Book of Suffragettes is now sitting on the bedside table.

Book You Can’t Believe You Waited until 2011 to Read

I can remember seeing Mary Stewart‘s books on the library shelves years ago, when I moved up from the junior to the adult library, but it wasn’t until this year that I read one. It was Thunder on the Right, and I loved it …

… a wonderful year of reading … and now it’s time to start another …


The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

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.