What’s it all about?:
Alaska, 1920: a brutal place to homestead, and especially tough for recent arrivals Jack and Mabel. Childless, they are drifting apart. In a moment of levity they build a child out of snow. The next morning the snow child is gone–but they glimpse a young, blonde-haired girl running through the trees.
Alaska, 1920: a brutal place to homestead, and especially tough for recent arrivals Jack and Mabel. Childless, they are drifting apart – he breaking under the weight of the work of the farm; she crumbling from loneliness and despair. In a moment of levity during the season’s first snowfall, they build a child out of snow. The next morning the snow child is gone – but they glimpse a young, blonde-haired girl running through the trees.
This little girl, who calls herself Faina, seems to be a child of the woods. She hunts with a red fox at her side, skims lightly across the snow, and somehow survives alone in the Alaskan wilderness. As Jack and Mabel struggle to understand this child who could have stepped from the pages of a fairy tale, they come to love her as their own daughter. But in this beautiful, violent place, things are rarely as they appear, and what they eventually learn about Faina will transform all of them.
What did I think?:
Oh my goodness, where do I start on this book? First of all, this is one of the most aesthetically pleasing books I’ve had the honour to own, the cover art is simply gorgeous and when I read the synopsis I was completely sold. I actually read it originally in my pre-blogging days, loved it then and gave it four stars on GoodReads and kept it in pride of place on my bookshelves. More recently, I had the opportunity to re-read it and for some reason, this time round, the story hit me like a ton of bricks and I adored it even more than I had the first time. (Definitely shows why you might want to re-read books, am I right?!). The Snow Child spoke to me on such a personal level and as I made little notes throughout the novel, I began to fully appreciate what a stunning story this actually is. It has my whole heart, makes me sad and makes me so happy at the same time and such conflicting emotions makes this novel one of my all time favourite books.
The Snow Child is based on an old Russian fairy tale about a couple that long to have a child of their own. They are unsuccessful so end up making a child out of snow that comes to life and gives them years of happiness until she disappears again and breaks their hearts. The couple in Eowyn Ivey’s tale are Jack and Mabel, who have recently moved to Alaska, a complete departure from their normal lives to live off the land in almost utter solitude with very few neighbours or distractions. Like the fairy tale, our couple have been unsuccessful in having a child and it has been very hard on their relationship. One night, they make a girl out of snow and dress her in Mabel’s scarf and then the next day, they start to see a small girl running about in the woods. She is obviously nervous, flits away and won’t communicate with them but they finally earn her trust and start a relationship with her.
Naming her Faina, the little girl is quite a enigma. She appears to be completely by herself but manages quite well, foraging for food with her pet fox before Mabel and Jack take her under their wings. Faina refuses to be housed like a normal human being however and only stays briefly with the couple before escaping to her own home out in the Alaskan wilderness. As the years pass by and Faina gets older, the relationship between her and her new adopted parents develops and strengthens and Jack and Mabel’s hearts appear to be finally healing and their purpose in life renewed. However, Faina was never born to be conventional and Jack and Mabel have to prepare themselves for the fact that they may never be able to keep their daughter just for themselves.
The magical moments, the fairy-tale aspects, the whimsical nature of Faina as a character and the intense beauty of the Alaskan landscape are all things I could go on and on about that are such a huge part about why I am in love with this novel. To be perfectly honest, I really can’t believe it’s a debut novel – Eowyn Ivey writes with such confidence and her plot is just sheer brilliance that you would believe that she’s been writing for decades. The story itself broke my heart in places then put it back together again and throughout the novel I couldn’t stop hugging myself in glee just because what I was reading was so magical and wonderful. I can’t even understand why the first time I read it I only gave it four stars, it certainly deserves more than that and was such an intense reading experience this time round for me, I don’t think I’ll ever forget it. I keep meaning to read the author’s second novel, To The Bright Edge Of The World (which is on my shelves at the moment) but to be honest, I’m a little scared just because of the outstanding quality of The Snow Child. It really needs to be done though and I’m determined to get to it by the end of the year!
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):