BOOK CLUB: The Snow Child

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Author: Eowyn Ivey
ISBN: 978-0-7553-8052-7

Wildly captivating and breathtakingly haunting the debut novel of Eowyn Ivey will hold your imagination in thrall with the perfect symmetry drawn between the Russian fairy tale that inspired the story and Ivey’s own Snow Child.

The book is bound in a blue cover, as was the book of Mabel’s childhood, and printed with a snowy white silhouette reminiscent of books that I can imagine being printed early last century – when this book was set.

Set alongside the Wolverine River, Alaska in 1920 when the area was untamed wilderness and the settlers were fighting nature every season to survive. A time when every battle was hard won and every crop was hard fought. The scenery is stark and vivid with much of the story being told throughout the winter months. You can just picture the pristine snow blanketing the forest, and feel the arctic wind blowing through the gaps in the cabin walls.

the snow child

Jack and Mabel are an older couple who move to Alaska to find a little peace and quiet, a fresh start in a new life that is all about the two of them. Somewhere quiet where there are no babies crying and children playing to haunt Mabel and cut to the heart of her grief for the baby she lost, away from the family who whisper and judge her for the lack of children.

Panning out over a decade and a half this is a story that builds slowly, like the success of a new farm, the growth of a friendship, and the bond of a family that you choose.

Arriving in Alaska Mabel wants solitude and silence in a world built for two; no neighbours, no family, no friends – just Jack and Mabel in partnership against the harsh climate of the Alaskan wilderness so when Jack embarks on a friendship with the Benson’s Mabel is a little frosty, but soon blossoms alongside her friendship with Esther.

There is an ever widening distance between the couple that Mabel had hoped to diminish with their move, and in all her imaginings things didn’t quite turn out the way she had thought. The joint venture of them working together panned out a little differently and sees the chasm taking them further apart, both of them trapped in their own head and heart unable to express themselves.

The magical first snow of winter brings with it a lighter mood that sees the 50-something Jack and Mabel making a snowman in their yard, a child sized snowman with a beautiful face etched with love, dressed in hand knitted scarf and mittens.

The morning light brings the discovery of the snow child missing, and child sized footprints leading away from the scene….

Is this a case of Cabin Fever as Esther suggests? Is there a logical explanation? Or is it really the magical transformation of snow child to real child of the snow as captured in the fairy tale of Mabel’s childhood?

This is a question that is never completely answered, never settled without a doubt, and remains shrouded in a little magic, a little mystery right up to the closing lines.

Regardless of the answer there is no denying that the entrance of Faina into the lives of Jack and Mabel is a turning point in so many aspects of their life. The beginning of a new chapter that brings heightened awareness, heightened emotion and heightened clarity.

A novel filled with emotional highs and lows, of going to the farthest reaches of civilisation to really get to know yourself, of opening yourself to the possibilities around you.

Ivey captured my heart and my imagination with the mystery surrounding the Alaskan homestead, the magic inherent in every page. A beautiful story that weaves the threads of the original fairy tale through the novel, comparing the fairy tale to what is unfolding before them. And for those who are intrigued by the fairy tale but never come across it there is a telling of the original story in the back of the book.

40 members of our Beauty Chick Chat panel have been reading The Snow Child, find out what they thought below…

41 thoughts on “BOOK CLUB: The Snow Child

  1. Whilst I enjoyed reading this novel, I didn’t really have the same feelings about it as the other reviewers.
    It was hard for me to get into at first, at the end of the first chapter I was overwhelmed with emotion and wasn’t sure I could continue reading it!
    But I did persevere and really am pleased that I did, the story got more intense but flowed easier and the imagery got stronger as Mabel’s struggle with her self, husband and surroundings became part of the strength that helped her endure all the emotions, people and trials in this wilderness of Alaska circa 1920’s.
    The characters are deeply believable and lovable and the time span of the story is weaved in such a way to be mysterious but not altogether baffling.
    The emotional roller coaster ride of this novel is what I’m left with upon finishing it and it’s not a bad thing! The author has done what a lot of authors rarely do for me, it takes a lot of imagery for me to be “in” the story and with the characters.
    Eowyn Ivey has done a fantastic job and I would recommend this novel to anyone wanting a good, heartfelt story with an historical element.
    But with a warning – you will feel emotions you may not want to be feeling!!!
    Thank you Beauty and Lace for this opportunity.

  2. Thanks to Beauty & Lace for giving me the opportunity to review The Snow Child.
    This is a very emotional and captivating novel, and from the very first page I was intrigued at how the book would end, so I found very hard to put down. Just one more chapter…
    The story has been very well written with lots of detail, so you almost feel as if you intimately know the characters and can picture how the live. It deals with couple’s losses and gains, and ups and downs in the Alaskan wilderness in the 1920s. The book is very touching, and does get you thinking about aspects in your own life. Many women have suffered childlessness as Mabel did, and that part touch me deeply and made me a little sad so far unable to have children myself… and did make me put the book away for a few days…but then my curiosity got the better of me, and then there was no stopping me, I had to know what happened next.
    There are parts of the book that are a little slow, but still, I just wanted to keep reading to learn more about their characters and how it would all end. Part of the book is like a magical fairytale, yet it is mixed with the story of the everyday life of Mabel and Jack, in such a clever way that it constantly has you wondering.
    Overall, the Show Child was a very enjoyable book, and it is hard to believe that it really is Eowyn Ivey’s first book. I will definitely recommend it to my friends and family, or anyone who enjoys a good read. I have already passed it onto a girlfriend, and I have no doubt that she will enjoy reading it too. And Im already looking forward to her next book!

    Thanks again Beauty & Lace.

  3. I wanted to write a review on this book not a summary as that gives too much away.Its a story about a couple who are unable to come to terms with the loss of their stillborn child 10yrs on and they are still struggling, so decide to move to the wilds of alaska.which in the 1920’s would have been harsh in the extreme,so isolated and both lonely they retreat into themselves and drift further apart in one part thinking about suicide,Until they have a few mad moments when it starts to snow and throw snowballs and build a little snowgirl and dress her, the next day she is gone but there are small footprints is she real is she fantasy.I won’t spoil the story but it is a beautifully wtitten tale of loss and longing that will touch the hearts of many it describes the landscape so well you are there with them.And tells you of the love they develop for this wild and beautiful place they have chose as their home.I loved it you will have to read the book and make up your own mind fact or fantasy, some lovely character’s evolve in this book with whom you would love to sit down to a meal and listen to their tales so light the fire pour a glass of wine and whisk yourself of to alaska.

  4. I love books and have been reading everything I can get my hands on since I was a little girl. When I received this book I loved that it had a hard cover and could not wait to see what it’s pages held for me. Sadly I was really indifferent to this book. Not loving it, nor hating it. In all honesty I could take or leave it. A true to life tale with a touch of fantasy, set in the cold of Alaska. As fanciful and lovely as it was, it didn’t reach out and grab me or absorb me as other books do. A light read for those not wanting something to intense or heavy.

  5. I’ve never reviewed a book before, where to begin! A quaint tale that absorbed me, held my attention and took me away to a new place, a world I am completely foreign to. As enchanting as it was, in essence it was a short story with lots of padding, making it larger and longer than it needed to be. All in all an enjoyable read.

  6. For me there wasn’t enough content in this book to justify filling all of it’s pages, the tale being fluffed with endless descriptions of Alaska and it’s wintery setting. Had all the descriptions been condensed, the book would have been relatively thin and a short read. Although a lovely and enchanting tale, it took it’s time in being told, with expanse and dull paragraphs dedicated to description. For me it peaked towards the end, where I became engrossed, glued to the pages, only for it to fade off with a disappointing ending. Not an outcome I had hoped for.

  7. I really enjoyed reading The Snow Child, it is an enchanting read and the story came to life, in my mind I could see the snow capped mountains and the frozen river, feel the coldness of the air and feel the snow. I learnt a lot about how hard the Alaskan way of life was and was touched by the way neighbours and friends were only to willing to help when things got tough.

    In all it was a great read with a touching story.

  8. Wow! One of the best books I have ever read, my other half said he was going to read it next. I will be recommending this to family and friends too. I love the look of the hardback blue and white cover, it is really fitting with the theme in terms of the Alaskan wilderness and snow. The author should be so proud of herself, she writes beautifully. I loved the storyline, I couldn’t book the book down, All of the characters and the relationships were really intriguing along with the various issues they faced, I can’t wait to read more of this author’s novels.

  9. The very minute I started reading this book, it captured my attention. Without reading any of the author’s details, I could tell she had in depth knowledge and experience of Alaska and it’s weather and temperaments. Her description of the mountains,rivers and wildlife all added to the wonderful story she created in The Snow Child. I think the story was well told and kept me in intrigue the whole way through. Each chapter added another layer of mystery as to what would become of the child and of course the old couple.
    I didn’t want the story to end and I think it finished on a great note, knowing what become of the old couple and Faina’s son and husband. A great read which I will thoroughly recommend.

  10. A Great Read

    A total departure from the normal ‘chick-lit’ that I adore… But what a welcome change. A thought provoking novel from a very talented author. I loved the relationships and the characters.

    Stunning imagery made me feel like I was part of the story.

    I will be looking for more books by this author in the future.

  11. I completed my review back in February but I just wanted to add that after I finished the book, my Mum asked to borrow it. I thought I was quick with 4 days to read the entire book!!!! But Mum had it done and dusted in 3 nights. She fell in love with the book also and we are both on the lookout for (hopefully) more stories written by Eowyn, she is AMAZING. I find that a month on, I still have The Snow Child in the back of my mind, it’s one of those stories that lives on in you.

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