BOOK REVIEWS

The Snow Child: A Novel Reviews

UPDATE TIME: 2017-09-01 
Review Score: 4 out of 5 star From 1 user ratings
ISBN:9780316175661
LANGUAGE:English

"5 out of 5 stars without doubt!
I'm so happy I read this book during Christmas and while it was snowing outside, because if there's one book that is suited for winter, this is the one! From the very first pages, I could feel the cold of the snow and the bleak mood of the winter which was portrayed in the book, and even though the story started out depressing I loved it!
Mabel and Jack were some of the best main characters I've read about for a long time. Their marriage and their relationship and habits were the best and I quickly fell in love head over heels with both of them. Luckily, we get this story from both their perspectives and I read about them and their stubborn personalities with a smile on my face.
The story grows even more beautiful with each chapter, and one of the best things was how everything wrapped up. Eowyn Ivey does it so beautifully and leaves you with a magic tale about love, loss, despair and happiness. READ IT READ IT READ IT! :)
" said.

"***NO SPOILERS***

Eowyn Ivey’s dreamy tale is very difficult to describe in a way that will do it justice; it’s truly as unique, as, well, a snowflake. One good description for it is a single word: atmospheric, but maybe the best place to start is simply to discuss its genre; this is “magical realism,” the integration of magical elements in a realistic setting. The Snow Child is a great choice for readers who dislike fantasy and also those who dislike straight-up realistic fiction or literary fiction. Ivey’s blending of the magical and realistic is enviably perfect; she interwove the magical elements so seamlessly that it seems completely reasonable that a snow girl could come to life, hunt in the woods daily with a pet fox, and become a surrogate daughter to an older childless couple.

Ivey was inspired by a Russian folk legend called “Snegurochka,” but The Snow Child is very much her own. The titular snow child--Faina--is easily the most fascinating of all the characters and what keeps suspense very high from beginning to end. She’s sprightly, extremely mysterious, elusive--and exhibits some magical powers. More than once, a main character refers to her as a “sprite,” and this is fitting. Each sighting is an event that’s just as exciting for the reader as it is for the couple who fashioned her one snowy night on a whim, and impressively, even as Faina lets down her guard and shares more about herself, she remains perplexing to the end; in so many ways she seems so human, yet in other ways, she doesn’t. The suspense never once wanes.

The realistic element to the story will have readers reaching for an extra sweater and turning on a space heater. Ivey’s snowy setting is astonishingly well crafted. The Alaskan winter shows no mercy. The story is replete with descriptions of biting, howling wind; log-cabin windows frosted over from the inside; regular trudging through high, heavy snow; the numbness of nose and ears. Ivey spares no details when it comes to the grim reality of homesteading life in Alaska. The people regularly hunt--everything from moose to lynx--and these depictions are raw and real. Wood must constantly be chopped, long fields ploughed and planted during a short window of time when the ground is finally pliable enough. Creature comforts are few, and exhausting chores are neverending.

As the story continues, however, it quickly becomes clear that Faina herself isn’t all that’s magical. Where she is, there’s magic in the very snowfalls that make homesteading life so much more laborious. Here, Ivey somehow made a gloomy season wondrous and enchanting. There’s a supernatural quality to the portrayal, as if this lonely Alaskan wilderness of the 1920s is an unreachable, mystical place, where of course a being such as a snow child could exist. It’s all one big icy dream where snow is a feathery powder to frolic in, skip across, and seek out. Ivey created such a strange but brilliant juxtaposition: the realistic element of a brutal winter and the magical element of a peaceful, snow-globe winter, playing a kind of tug-of-war.

The Snow Child was a Pulitzer Prize nominee in 2013. Possibly the only thing holding it back from winning the prize was Ivey’s prose. She was a newspaper reporter for ten years, and it shows; her style is very direct and unfortunately, mundane. Her writing could use a healthy dose of artistry, and a clichéd phrase or two (e.g.,“slipped through her fingers like water...”) should have been nixed before the book’s final printing. Ivey’s story itself is so lovely that it seems to beg for a more elevated, poetic type of prose to match; nevertheless, the story itself is too magnificent to be spoiled by less-than-impressive writing. The Snow Child will leave readers awe-struck.

Final verdict: A unique, un-put-downable story suitable for a variety of readers. Readers new to magical realism in particular won’t regret starting with this one.
" said.

"Achingly beautiful.

How is it that someone who struggles with fantasy and more so with sci-fi can embrace fairy-tales so willingly? There may be a fine line between the two but the best way I have seen the differences described is that fairy-tales are handed down stories, folklore, and that fantasy is the product of one person's imagination.

Regardless of where you put The Snow Child in genre, it is magical. It's a hard book to talk about without spoiling the whole for the next reader. The author, Eowyn Ivy, states that it is based on a Russian tale, Snegurochka, or The Snow Maiden, about an older couple unable to have children of their own and are saddened by this. One day they build a snow child, a little girl who comes to life. And there you have the premise of The Snow Child which takes place in 1920's wilderness Alaska. The childless couple, Mabel and Jack, find themselves in Alaska when the happiness of family and laughter of children, which Mabel describes as noise, becomes to much for her. You might describe this as running away. Mabel soon finds out that the harsh realities of life in Alaska may be worse then what she has left behind in Pennsylvania. Farming the land is hard, supplies are hard to get, they know little of how to exist in this foreign place yet there is a determination to do so. Add to this the long light of short summers and the dreary darkness, cold and snow of long winters and you can feel their despair. At the first snow, Mabel surprises Jack with lost playfulness when she starts a snow ball fight. This scene turns out to be one of the best in the book for me.

The rest of the fairy-tale is there but best to read for yourself. For a wonderful interview with the author take a listen on The Readers
Episode 22. It gives solid background to the story but might be better to hear after you've read the book as it does give tidbits away.

I've never liked the cold or tons of snow but through Ivey's eyes, she has challenged me to see what she loves about her life and home in Alaska.

A fairy-tale for adults, The Snow Child is subtle, thought-provoking and delightful storytelling.
" said.

"THE SNOW CHILD BY EOWYN IVEY

I can remember handling this book in the bookstore deciding whether I wanted to read it or not. I ended up deciding against getting the book. When I read "To the Bright Edge of the World", last year I was absolutely BLOWN AWAY by the beautiful prose, the captivating landscape and the interesting plot. I couldn't wait to read "The Snow Child." While they are completely different books they both are arrestingly beautiful.

It is 1920's deep in Alaska where a couple who have been married and have had their only child die during childbirth, the two mourn for the child they never had.
"Wife, let us go into the yard behind and make a little snow girl; and perhaps she will
come alive, and be a little daughter to us."

"Husband," says the old woman, "there's no knowing what may be. Let us go into the
yard and make a little snow girl."

"Then one morning when the last of the snow had melted, she came to the old couple
and kissed them both.

I must leave you now, she said.

Why? they cried"

"I am a child of the snow. I must go where it is cold."

"No! No!" they cried "You cannot go!"

"They held her close, and a few drops of snow fell to the floor. Quickly she slipped from
their arms and ran out the door."

"Come back!" they called

"Come back to us!"
--The Snow Child, retold by Freya Littledale

Faina is her name and as the story goes on it is questionable if she is human, because of Jack finding her father's corpse. Mabel and Jack and Esther and George's son Garrett all pitch in and help Jack with his farming. Garrett hunts, traps and helps Jack get his potato and lettuce crops planted. There is some sparks that fly between Garrett and Faina. Will there be a relationship that develops between the two of them?

This book might bring out the child in all of us. The prose is descriptive of the unforgiving landscape. The ice capped lavender mountain peaks to the icy cold clear running Wolverine River. This was a pleasure to read, but I think I liked "To the Bright Edge of the World" surprisingly better from page to page. Taken as a whole they are both different, unique and completely enchanting.

" said.

" Evokes a strong sense of place...the frigid and unforgiving Alaskan landscape. Charming and magical story. I'm not a fan of fantasy novels so I was surprised at just how much I loved this book. All the characters were well developed, likable and their relationships with each other were tender and loving. I especially enjoyed Esther, their salty but lovable "Ma Kettle" like neighbor. She provided lively, laugh out loud moments in an otherwise gentle and restrained fairy tale. " said.

"Poignant, melancholy and slow-moving, The Snow Child probably isn't for everyone and I'll admit that it probably would have been a 3 1/2 star if I hadn't read it at such a seasonally appropriate time. With temperatures in the single digits, the wind whipping outside, and my part of the world brought to a halt by the "wintry mix" falling from the sky, this was the perfect book to curl up with and therefore I'm tacking on that extra half star anyway.

Well past middle-age, Jack and Mabel strike out on their own when they move to Alaska in the 1920's. Such an adventure would typically be a young couple's game, but Jack and Mabel are lured to the recently acquired U.S. territory in the hope that it will allow them to leave behind the one great disappointment in their lives: the stillborn child they buried in an orchard back home. Proximity to friends and family who have children of their own means that Jack and Mabel's emotional wound has never fully healed, so they purposefully break away in the hope that they will be drawn closer together and move past their grief.

It's not long, however, before the long, dark Alaskan winters take their toll on the couple. Isolated in their own spheres--Jack in the fields, Mabel in the home--depression and blame begin to settle into an otherwise happy marriage. In a moment of youthful spontaneity, the couple builds a snow child one night and it's not long before they begin to see a young girl, a wild thing at home in the cold and the forest, moving through the woods and causing them to tentatively believe that maybe they've at last been granted a child of their own making.

Based upon a Russian fairy tale, The Snow Child could easily be maddening to those who like definitive answers and clear resolutions. Is the young girl (whose name, we learn, is Faina) an orphaned child, a daughter born of snow and winter come to life, or a figment created from depression and longing? There are no clear answers to these questions, but I don't think they are questions that really matter because, in the end, The Snow Child is about grief and forgiveness.

In her portrayal of Jack and Mabel, Ivey gives us the basic template for any marriage: no matter how strong the bond, individual grievances, both real and imagined, can build and fester. Whether or not a couple confronts these grievances determines if the marriage will fall apart or hold together. There's also complexity to the characters. At first, Mabel seems too refined and erudite for survival in the rugged wilderness, while Jack faces both the past and the future with unflinching stoicism. As we're allowed into their interior lives, however, we learn that Mabel has hidden strengths that hold her in good stead and Jack hurts far more than he's willing to admit, lest it render him unable to protect Mabel. Through their relationship with Faina, Jack and Mabel confront the painful past together and are ultimately blessed with the life they believed was well beyond their grasp.

Cross posted at This Insignificant Cinder
" said.

"I'm puzzled as to why this isn't considered Young Adult. Well, more of an eyebrow raise of sardonic 'Really? You're going to go that way?', for I have a pretty good idea of why this was pushed up into the adult realm. I simply don't agree with the argument for such.

Now, I adore new renditions of old tales as a matter of principle, for a host of reasons ranging from the past being a foreign and sometimes hateful country, to a childhood lust for urban fantasy that I never quite outgrew. Any story may be retold, but even my current appetite for more sedate literature has not dampened the intrigue that sparks up whenever I see mention of a fairy tale told anew. It is that otherworldly aura in the hard-bitten setting of modern times that I crave, the best being the exquisite balance between the baleful spikes of reality and the Old Testament viciousness of Grimm. Needless to say, I went into this story with definite expectations.

Said expectations were not carried through. The characters were solid yet utterly predictable, the plot meandered along the original story line with little effort to circumvent the old with the delightful heartbeat of the new, and that visual imagery I had heard so much about failed to inspire the slightest bit of enraptured imagination. Instead, I was left with the feeling that while the author should get credit for creating realistic letters for her non-writerly characters to send to each other, I would have preferred it had this subpar decency not carried through the entirety of the book. When choosing between characters at a realistic level of scripting and a masterful author more concerned with writing than with believable differentiation, I will always choose the latter.

I must mention that during the reading of this I was also being simultaneously bowled over by Wide Sargasso Sea, whose sharply lined prose of dripping luridness would likely have paled the majority of most novels' imagery to a fraction of their power when in solitude. This dual reading may have also contributed to the feeling of reading drag. WSS is half the length of TSC with much briefer sentences, but every word of every line of every page is steeped in meaningful craftsmanship. Compared to this, TSC comes off as both clumsy in structure and bloated in the packing peanuts rather than the dense sense of the word; the page paid per inch of insight was high with this one.

In the end, it is this overarching simplicity that both failed to appeal to me as well as made me wonder at the lack of Young Adult label on this book. Granted, there are a number of references to sex and other more erotic undertakings, but never were they explicated beyond a few vague hints at the less 'obscene' body parts. 'Twas this reason that likely shoved the rating up, a false inflation in my mind that is no way accompanied by the usual increase in brutality or complexity of literature for maturer audiences.

Ah well. At least it didn't win the Pulitzer. That would have sunk my evaluation of the Prize itself even lower.
" said.

" 4.5 shining stars Utterly, utterly gorgeous. Review to come. " said.

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