Saturday, 29 September 2012

'The Snow Child' by Eowyn Ivey

Why these stories for children always have to turn out so dreadfully is beyond me. I think if I ever tell it to my grandchildren, I will change the ending...We are allowed to do that, are we not Mabel? To invent our own endings and choose joy over sorrow? 
(excerpt from the book)

It's been awhile since I've felt the need to really review a book but then it's so rare to come across a book that is so utterly enchanting and captivates you wholly. That is what I got from reading the achingly beautiful 'The Snow Child', the debut novel by Eowyn Ivey (jealous of the author's name!)

The narrative wraps itself around this fairy tale of an old couple who create a snow child in winter and she comes alive, a creature of the snowy wilderness. The book is split between the POVs of Mabel and Jack, a couple who've escaped to Alaska to start a life of their own after not being able to have children. It's a lonely and extreme existence but as surely as the snow melts, their lives are quietly transformed by the seasons, their neighbours - and a girl of the snow who lives in the mountains behind their homestead, who they alone can see after building a snow girl one night.

I couldn't get over how much the book affected me and overwhelmed me. I knew from the first page that this was going to be a keeper; it was the way the author spun the tale with sharp, simple but ever so vivid prose. After putting it down, I realised it's pretty much near perfectly weighted between the fantastical and practical, a subtle weaving of what it takes to carve a living off this harsh landscape and  being taken in by the mystic elements, largely encompassed by the ethereal character of the snow child herself.

It's coming of age, it's all the bittersweet aspects of parenthood and endurance, the fleeting moments of beauty life gives us - everything I adore. Some of it reminded me of 'Princess Mononoke', the film by Hayao Miyazaki about a girl of a primal forest, raised by wolves - that whole untamed beauty of the natural world that is both more substantial and more insubstantial than the working, 'human' world.
I can only urge you to pick it up and read it yourself. You cannot be disappointed by any of it. This book has firmly and surely placed itself at the top of my 'must read' list.

VERDICT: 10/10

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