The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
Just finished reading The Snow Child which is the debut novel of Eowyn Ivey. The Snow Child is based on a Russian fairy-tale about an old couple who live alone in a forest. They are unable to have children. One winter’s evening they build a small child out of snow and dress it with mittens and scarf. A combination of magic and longing brings the snow child to life to fulfil the old couple’s desires for a child.
Eowyn’s story brings to us Jack and Mabel. They have moved to a homestead in Alaska. A new beginning for them and also an opportunity to escape their old lives which is blighted with sorrow – more so since ? lost her baby during the first few months of pregnancy.
I actually really enjoyed this book in fact I loved it!. The writing is quite captivating and it does have a magical feel about it. It isn’t particularly a book filled with laughter and joy but in spite of this it isn’t a sorrowful read. The couple are indeed sad not to be able to have a family but this doesn’t stop the love which they feel for each other coming across. Their lives are hard. After all they’re out in Alaska and let’s face it, it’s pretty damned cold for a lot of the time on top of which they are very isolated and scraping a living is extremely hard work. However, slowly, and despite their (or more particularly Mabel’s) best efforts against it they make friends with their nearest neighbours and start to enjoy a little more success with their farm. One evening, following heavy snowfall, they let their hair down and make a snowchild – in the morning the snowchild has been reduced to a pile of snow and the mittens and scarf that the couple used to decorate her with have disappeared. They then start to see a child, with long blond hair flitting in and out of the woods at the rear of their property. Eventually they befriend the child and try to take her under their protection. It is a strange story, not least because you’re never quite sure whether the couple are imagining the child – nobody else ever sees her and the couple’s neighbours think they are suffering from ‘cabin fever’.
I won’t go any further with the plot. There are apparently a number of variations of this particular story that it would not be difficult to find out about and read. However, I enjoyed not knowing what version the story would follow and more to the point the fact that I wasn’t sure whether it would follow the fairytale at all or would adopt a different version completely.
I enjoyed reading about the couple and how their lives changed with the introduction of their neighbour’s into it and particularly their son Garrett. They open up more to each other and their friends and see their home and landscape through new eyes. There are certainly some beautifully described scenes which make it incredibly easy to conjure up in your mind the beauty and savage nature of the place.
I hope I don’t give too much away if I say the ending is slightly bitter sweet – but don’t be distracted by this. It’s a lovely story, well told and an amazing debut. The descriptions and writing are incredibly easy to get along with and the whole magical element is quite beguiling.
Now, on a separate note this particular story will go to one of my challenges currently being hosted by Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings (press this link and go check it out – this is an awesome none-challenge with such cool categories and loads of bloggers taking part and discussing books). This is a challenge that isn’t a challenge (in other words it’s all about the fun). There are four elements to this non-challenge – fairy tale, myth, folklore and fantasy. I do have a dilemma about which category this book fits into however. The author say’s it’s based on a Russian fairy-tale – so perhaps it falls in the fairy tale element – however, it doesn’t actually have any fairies in it – not sure if that matters. I’ve been thinking back about some of the stories that we call fairy tales – and they don’t all have fairies or fairy godmothers in them after all – but, personally I feel as though this falls more into a sort of folklore type of story! Dunno . Open to suggestion on this one. But definitely veering to the folklore side? Help!
Anyway, final note this is a lovely magical tale, emotional, beautiful, well written and captivating.
Plus – check out this cover. I know that I should rise above it but this is a lovely cover and you can’t tell from the picture above but it’s designed to look like an old blue leather bound book.