“Jack and Mabel hope that a fresh start in ‘Alaska, our newest homeland’ will enable them to put the strain of their childless marriage behind them. But the northern wilderness proves as unforgiving as it is beautiful: Jack fears that he will collapse under the strain of creating a farm, and the lonely winter eats its way into Mabel’s soul. When the first snow falls, the couple find themselves building a small figure – a snow girl. The next morning, their creation has gone, and they see a child running through the spruce trees. Gradually this child – an elusive, untameable little girl who hunts with a fox and is more at ease in the savage landscape than in the homestead – comes into their lives. But as their love for the snow child and for the land she opens up to them grows, so too does their awareness that it, and she, may break their hearts.”
The blurb and book cover of The Snow Child promised a magical read – and Eowyn Ivey more than delivers on this promise. The story launches straight into the lives of Jack and Mabel, a childless couple who have moved to Alaska. Their existence is bare and simple; Mabel stays home in their sparse home whilst Jack works outside.
The couple’s inability to show each other emotion and sadness, and their failure to procreate a child, is reflected by the bleak, freezing landscape that surrounds them. One day, during a blizzard, Mabel and Jack playfully create a snow child – a little girl, which they complete with clothes. However, the next day, the snow figurine has disappeared and soon the couple are visited by a little girl who navigates the treacherous woods expertly, accompanied only by a fox. She is invited in to the couple’s home from time to time, but rarely speaks and never stays.
As time goes on, the couple grow more attached to this magical girl called Faina who is now growing up and who forms a relationship with the son of the couple’s only friends. But when her free spirit is compromised by the responsibilities of a real relationship, the couple lose the closest thing they have to a child.
Words can’t express how exquisitely this book is written. Eowyn weaves incredible sadness and beauty through the story; the reader can actually feel the barrenness of Mabel and Jack’s new home, their desolation at not being able to have children and their longing to adopt this magical girl into their lives completely. The robust characters of Ethel and George offset the protagonists’ awkward and timid natures perfectly.
A book that is full of magic and yet contains relatable underlying themes, The Snow Child is moving and enchanting in equal measures. A must read that should be bought, if only for the beautiful cover.
Many thanks to Headline for a review copy of this title.