Saturday, 29 December 2012

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

Paperback, 423 pages
Published 2012 by Headline Review
ISBN 0755380541 (ISBN13: 9780755380541)

Literary awards: UK National Book Awards for International Author of the Year (2012)

"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."

This is another book which I had heard was really worth reading so I decided that winter is probably the best time to read it to get the best feel for the book. I'm pleased I did read it at this time of year - despite a distinct lack of snow in England at the moment - as the magic of the book seems to fit with Christmas, even if the story has nothing to do with the festive nature of the season.

This book really makes me want to visit Alaska. The descriptions are exceptionally vivid and create an amazing atmosphere for this moving and magical story. The author evokes great sympathy for the main characters, Jack and Mabel, who are both trying to deal with their circumstances in different ways. They are both very interesting characters with a lot of depth to them which make the magical moments in the story more believable.

Faina is also a really interesting character, who you never fully understand. Her fey-like nature and mix of childish-innocence with seemingly age-defying wisdom definitely intrigued me. I love that the magic that seems to surround her is never fully explained, as if the author had tried to define it I think it would have spoilt the story. I also liked that speech in the scenes with Faina did not use quotation marks as it really made you wonder to begin with if she was real, and brought more questions later on in the story.

I really enjoyed entering the world of this book and I would give it 9 out of 10.

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