This time the Around the World Reading challenge is taking me to North America, Alaska to be precise.
The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey tells the story of an old couple, Mabel and Jack, who have moved to Alaska mourning the loss of their only child who died at birth. Mabel goes out walking on the ice, knowing that it isn’t strong enough to carry her. Miraculously, she survives, and here the novel begins. One day on a whim Mabel and Jack make a child out of snow. The snow child turns into a real child, and becomes the daughter they never had.
I’m not usually very big on fantasy novels, and I guess this qualifies as one. The only way I can stomach them is if they’re realistic enough in some sense. This book is mostly very realistic, and the only fantasy element is the snow girl. Is she real, or a hallucination, or is she something truly magical?
That to me was the best part of this book. The snow child seems to be a creature of the cold, a strange fantasy created in the brains of this couple, deranged by grief. At the same time she seems so real, and little hints of her being an actual child abound. The reader is sucked into the same confusion and uncertainty that plagues Mabel and Jack.
The story is set in the twenties, but something about the writing makes me think that this could have happened in any day and age. Mabel and Jack build a house in the middle of nowhere and live off the land to the best of their ability. This is the most central human condition. Agriculture and survival.
I don’t want to give anything away, so I’m not going to divulge what happens at the end of this book. Let’s just say that the sense of something magical happening never leaves.
The story is good and the writing is beautiful. The book held my attention all the way till the end. Not my usual cup of tea, but I’m glad I read it anyway.
I’m not exactly sure who’d be in the target group for this novel. Rather than fantasy, it’s a fairytale, and it is based on a real Russian fairytale called the Snegurochka. Let’s call it a fairytale for adults.