Published by Headline in February 2012
Mabel had known there would be silence. That was the point after all. No infants cooing or wailing. No neighbour children playfully hollering down the lane. No pad of small feet on wooden stairs worn smooth by generations, or clackety-clack of toys along the kitchen floor. All those sounds of her failure and regret would be left behind and in their place there would be silence.
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.
Once in a while a book falls into your lap and you could almost swear it was dusted with pure magic. The Snow Child is one of those books. Inspired by the Russian fairytale of the same name, Eowyn Ivey weaves her magic bringing new depth to the timeless tale. Reading this book is like balancing on a fine line between reality and fantasy. The way the author has written it, you are never quite sure if you are reading a historical tale of pure fairytale.
The writing is vivid, mesmerising and bursting with description. I was completely absorbed in the story from the first paragraph. The contrast between hot and cold, constantly turning over in your mind, as you watch the weather and relationships change with the circle of life.
The characters radiate warmth from cold harshness of the landscape surrounding them. You quickly fall in love with each and every one of them; even the wild fox. Faina just oozes magic; you are never really quite sure if she is real or not; making the freezing cold winters of Alaska, her choice of home. By the end of the book, you no longer see how dismal and dangerous the Alaskan weather is ; all you envisage is the magic and beauty of a perfectly white landscape. This book truly shows you how magical and unique nature actually is; from the presence of the Northern lights, to the sleeping bear and her cubs. The story melts your heart.
By the end of the book, I was weeping like a baby. Certain scenes really touched me and I really struggled to put this book down and not start reading it again from the beginning.
The book reminded me a lot of the Little House on the Prairie books, especially the first couple in the series where they live in a house completely isolated. It also had the magical elements I found so enjoyable in The Girl With The Glass Feet by Ali Shaw and I can now see why he was asked to review it for the cover.
I truly loved every word of this book and it will definitely be one I want to read again and again.