The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

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The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Robin Leggett
Reviewed by Robin Leggett
Summary: Magical and beautiful, this re-telling of an old Russian fairytale about a snow child is set in 1920s Alaska and is full of charm and human warmth. A warming winter tale for the child within us all.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 432 Date: February 2012
Publisher: Headline Review
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9780755380527

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Richard and Judy Book Club Autumn 2012

The heart of Alaskan native, Eowyn Ivey's debut novel is a re-telling of the Russian fairy tale Snegurochka or The Snow Child. Set here in Alaska in the 1920s, Jack and Mabel have moved from the East coast to start a new life, apart from anything to help Mabel get over the grief of having lost her only child in childbirth. Life in Alaska is tough and Jack struggles to farm his new homestead. Then in the first snowfall of the season, a playful snowball fight leads to the couple building a snowman, or more accurately a snowgirl. The next morning the snowgirl has vanished along with the mittens and scarf that adorned her and Jack sees a ghostly figure, possibly a young girl, running in the woods. Can they have created a snow child? Is this their longed for daughter?

Mabel and Jack's only real human contact is with their neighbours, George and the brilliantly portrayed Esther and their three sons. None of them know of any missing children in the area and have never seen the child that Mabel and Jack claim to have seen. Esther in particular thinks that it is some kind of cabin fever induced delusion. But Mabel and Jack have met the girl, Faina - a fairy-like child who visits them in the winter but disappears in the Spring.

Many adjectives spring to mind in describing this book. It is magical, ethereal, gentle, charming, beautiful and both sad and uplifting at the same time, as fairytales so often are. There's clearly a great love for the Alaskan landscape and climate in the book and the changes in seasons are beautifully described, but it always remains a story about humans and the struggle to cope with the harsh land than merely about the wildlife and climate itself. There are moments of great human tenderness as well as being hugely atmospheric.

Like most fairytales, the nub of the story is fairly modest and there are passages where not a lot happens in terms of plot development - but it is a huge measure of the writer's skill that this doesn't drag and there's great pathos to the telling of the story. It certainly kept me transfixed throughout. It's a sheer joy to read.

It's a heart-warming story for the child within that is probably best read in the depths of winter.

For more Arctic fiction, you may also enjoy A Summer of Drowning by John Burnside while younger readers - and I don't see why teens couldn't read this book too - then there's more Alaskan fiction in Looking For Alaska by John Green. You might also enjoy Light Boxes by Shane Jones, which also has an ethereal quality.

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Buy The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey at


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