A bewitching tale of heartbreak and hope set in 1920s Alaska.
Jack and Mabel have staked everything on making a fresh start for themselves in a homestead ‘at the world’s edge’ in the raw Alaskan wilderness. But as the days grow shorter, Jack is losing his battle to clear the land, and Mabel can no longer contain her grief for the baby she lost many years before.
The evening the first snow falls, their mood unaccountably changes. In a moment of tenderness, the pair are surprised to find themselves building a snowman – or rather a snow girl – together. The next morning, all trace of her has disappeared, and Jack can’t quite shake the notion that he glimpsed a small figure – a child? – running through the spruce trees in the dawn light. And how to explain the little but very human tracks Mabel finds at the edge of their property?
Written with the clarity and vividness of the Russian fairytale from which it takes its inspiration, The Snow Child is an instant classic – the story of a couple who take a child into their hearts, all the while knowing they can never truly call her their own.
Oh, what can I say about this wonderful novel that might actually do it justice?
I first came across The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey in my local Waterstones as it is part of their annual Waterstones 11 list, (their pick of pick of the best debut novels of 2012). And it was being quite heavily promoted at the front of the store, and have to say I was captivated first by the beautiful cover, and then by the synopsis. Almost without realising it, I was making my way to the counter, with a copy clasped in my hands.
From the first page, I knew this was going to be a book I wanted to spend time with, to sink into and to slowly read and absorb. Eowyn Ivey, first of all, does an amazing job of painting Jack and Mable’s world, capturing the cold but beautiful landscape of the Alaskan wilderness and the day-to-day lives of homesteaders. You can feel the chill, but also the beauty of each snowflake that falls, drawn so it to world are you.
But, even with all that cold, the story itself oozes nothing but warmth. And the characters, oh the characters, are so wonderfully & subtly drawn, Jack and Mable’s slowly find themselves again, a lot of this is to do with Faina, the little girl who comes into their lives and begins to heal the hurt from years past. But it’s also a joy to watch them fall in love with the land as well.
George and Esther their neighbours, soon become firm friends, and Esther particularly is a bit of an unstoppable force-of-nature, that blasts periodically into their lives, bringing colour and not taking no for an answer. Their attitude and experience are just what Jack and Mabel need in those early years.
George and Esther’s youngest son, Garret, also becomes an important part of their lives. Garret doesn’t like to be tied to home, he likes to spent time hunting in the woods, living under the stars. There’s a lovely bond that forms between Jack and Garret, as Jack becomes a father figure to the boy (not that he replaces George).
I really don’t want to talk any more about the plot, because much of the joy is in watching it unravel as the years roll by.
So, I’ll finish by saying I can’t recommend this, wonderful, beautiful, exquisite tale enough.