The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

Posted On 27 March 2012

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Just finished reading The Snow Child which is the debut novel of Eowyn Ivey.  The Snow Child is based on a Russian fairy-tale about an old couple who live alone in a forest.  They are unable to have children.  One winter’s evening they build a small child out of snow and dress it with mittens and scarf.  A combination of magic and longing brings the snow child to life to fulfil the old  couple’s desires for a child.

Eowyn’s story brings to us Jack and Mabel.  They have moved to a homestead in Alaska.  A new beginning for them and also an opportunity to escape their old lives which is blighted with sorrow – more so since ? lost her baby during the first few months of pregnancy.

I actually really enjoyed this book in fact I loved it!.  The writing is quite captivating and it does have a magical feel about it.  It isn’t particularly a book filled with laughter and joy but in spite of this it isn’t a sorrowful read.  The couple are indeed sad not to be able to have a family but this doesn’t stop the love which they feel for each other coming across.  Their lives are hard.  After all they’re out in Alaska and let’s face it, it’s pretty damned cold for a lot of the time on top of which they are very isolated and scraping a living is extremely hard work.  However, slowly, and despite their (or more particularly Mabel’s) best efforts against it they make friends with their nearest neighbours and start to enjoy a little more success with their farm.  One evening, following heavy snowfall, they let their hair down and make a snowchild – in the morning the snowchild has been reduced to a pile of snow and the mittens and scarf that the couple used to decorate her with have disappeared.  They then start to see a child, with long blond hair flitting in and out of the woods at the rear of their property.  Eventually they befriend the child and try to take her under their protection.  It is a strange story, not least because you’re never quite sure whether the couple are imagining the child – nobody else ever sees her and the couple’s neighbours think they are suffering from ‘cabin fever’.

I won’t go any further with the plot.  There are apparently a number of variations of this particular story that it would not be difficult to find out about and read.  However, I enjoyed not knowing what version the story would follow and more to the point the fact that I wasn’t sure whether it would follow the fairytale at all or would adopt a different version completely.

I enjoyed reading about the couple and how their lives changed with the introduction of their neighbour’s into it and particularly their son Garrett.  They open up more to each other and their friends and see their home and landscape through new eyes.  There are certainly some beautifully described scenes which make it incredibly easy to conjure up in your mind the beauty and savage nature of the place.

I hope I don’t give too much away if I say the ending is slightly bitter sweet – but don’t be distracted by this.  It’s a lovely story, well told and an amazing debut.  The descriptions and writing are incredibly easy to get along with and the whole magical element is quite beguiling.

Now, on a separate note this particular story will go to one of my challenges currently being hosted by Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings (press this link and go check it out – this is an awesome none-challenge with such cool categories and loads of bloggers taking part and discussing books).  This is a challenge that isn’t a challenge (in other words it’s all about the fun).  There are four elements to this non-challenge – fairy tale, myth, folklore and fantasy.  I do have a dilemma about which category this book fits into however.  The author say’s it’s based on a Russian fairy-tale – so perhaps it falls in the fairy tale element – however, it doesn’t actually have any fairies in it – not sure if that matters.  I’ve been thinking back about some of the stories that we call fairy tales – and they don’t all have fairies or fairy godmothers in them after all – but, personally I feel as though this falls more into a sort of folklore type of story!  Dunno .  Open to suggestion on this one.  But definitely veering to the folklore side?  Help!

Anyway, final note this is a lovely magical tale, emotional, beautiful, well written and captivating.

The Snow Child

The Snow Child

Plus – check out this cover.  I know that I should rise above it but this is a lovely cover and you can’t tell from the picture above but it’s designed to look like an old blue leather bound book.

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33 Responses to “The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey”

  1. Aunt Amelia

    Oh I like the sound of that…

    “Hugs can do great amounts of good, especially for children.”
    ~Princess Diana, Princess of Wales

  2. Aunt Amelia

    And my library has it, so I will have it too. 🙂

    “Hugs can do great amounts of good, especially for children.”
    ~Princess Diana, Princess of Wales

  3. Novel Girl

    I’m so happy I got to review this novel. I hope it becomes a classic. Great storytelling! 🙂

  4. TBM

    Sounds like an impressive debut novel. I hope the buzz helps this author get established. And congrats on getting a novel done for Once Upon a Time. I should finish Peter Pan today.

  5. lynnsbooksLy

    Oh, Peter Pan is such a good choice. I had trouble placing this because I think it sounds a bit folklore but the author says it’s based on a fairy-tale!
    Lynn

  6. Novroz

    I have never read any book by Russian author before. I like the sound of this book, I guess it’s best to start form her.

    Don’t worry, you don’t give too much in your review. Great review.

    • lynnsbooks

      Hi
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I don’t want to lead you astray so will just mention that the author and setting for the novel are not Russian. I think the author is from (and lives) in Alaska and that’s why she chose this tale because she thought that setting would still work. It is a really lovely story, very evocative, bit emotional and keeps you guessing to the end. I hope you read it and enjoy it as much as I did – but I do have a bit of a thing for ‘fairy tales’ retold.
      Lynn 😀

      • Novroz

        Thank you for the explanation 🙂

        I was hoping to read more authors from around the world. My book for this challenge comes from Japanese author and I like it a lot.

  7. Heidi

    I recently ran across this book and it sounds like an absolutely wonderful book. I think I would really enjoy it, obviously you did. I hope the bittersweet ending isn’t a tear jerker, but somehow I think it will be. Thanks for sharing Lynn.

    • lynnsbooksLy

      Hi Heidi
      I probably shouldn’t have put the tear jerker thing – it might lead people astray. It’s not a particularly sad ending, for example, tissues won’t be required (or maybe I’m just really hardfaced!)
      It is a good story, brings home to you the harshness in parts but then this is contrasted with really simple pleasures.
      Lynn 😀

  8. Grace

    This sounds like such a good book! I’m going to have to track down a copy at some point. I’m obsessed with books about Russian culture and I love fairy tales, so it seems like a double win. 😀

    • lynnsbooksLy

      Hi Grace. It’s a lovely story. Mind you there’s unfortunately not much Russian culture because the author has retold this in Alaska. The story is good though. Speaking of books set in Russia – do you have any good recommendations. I did just recently read Jasper Kent’s vampire novels based over the Russia and they were really good. The other novel that I really enjoyed was the Bronze Horseman which is set in Leningrad during the siege. It’s a love story and it’s a bit epic but I loved it.
      Lynn 😀

      • Grace

        If you do like paranormal-type stories at all, I read a fun one earlier this year called “The Fallen Queen” by Jane Kindred. It’s about an angel who falls and lands in Russia, and her story kind of parallels the Romanovs.

        I haven’t read enough books that are set in Russia that aren’t written by Russian authors yet, but I do have one or two on my TBR list that I’m hoping to get to eventually.

      • lynnsbooks

        Oh yes, I like paranormal – I think I must read about every type of paranormal going! I’m going to have a look for The Fallen Queen. Thanks for that. The Romanovs – such a very interesting family!
        Lynn 😀

  9. cherylmahoney

    Ooh, I do enjoy stories where you aren’t sure what’s real and what characters are imagining. Always fascinating.

    • lynnsbooksLy

      Yeah, I think she manages to keep a bit of suspense. Part of you is thinking, no it’s going to follow the fairy tale and part of you is thinking it might be updated. And the other part, if I haven’t already used all the parts up that is, is thinking does this girl even exist??
      Lynn 😀

  10. Carl V.

    I really need to give in and get this book. From the first time I saw it I was hooked on the cover, and it sounded so good.

    • lynnsbooks

      Do you know Carl I actually thought of you when I was reading this because it seemed like something you would like. I bought it a while ago and then it fit in perfectly with your (not a) challenge so I upped it to the top of the list.

      I normally have loads of books about fey, fantasy, mythology – but at the moment I seem to have more fantasy and sci fi than anything else! Need to balance things up a bit. Although somebody gave me a book called Cinder – which is obviously based on Cinderella, so I’ll try to read that as well. I don’t think I have anything about myths though? Do you have any recommendations. I quite like the sound of Hood or maybe something about King Arthur?
      Lynn 😀

      • Carl V.

        Hmmm…one book that I really like a lot (which has a few questionable scenes in it, I must admit) that is built upon the foundations of mythology is Keith Miller’s novel, The Book of Flying. I read it many years ago for the first time and every so often thoughts of it creep up on me. It is a somewhat melancholy book but well worth a read.

        Other than that nothing is leaping to mind. More often when I think of mythology I think of non-fiction work, including stuff about Tolkien and the mythology that he helped create.

      • lynnsbooks

        I’ll check out The Book of Flying.

        My brain seems to seize up when it comes to mythology – I just think of Greek Mythology and then I can’t get any further! Good point about Tolkien though. Did you start the Mistborn book yet?

        Ta
        Lynn 😀

      • Carl V.

        The Book of Flying has some greek mythology in it, but it is really woven more into the story.

        I have started Mistborn. Just barely though. This weekend will include some marathon reading time for sure. This week has been too full with fun things. I think we will have had something going on every single night. It has been wild. I’m actually looking forward to a hopefully chilled out week next week.

      • lynnsbooks

        Well, having a wild time is always good – particularly if you can follow it with a chill and a good book. I haven’t started Mistborn yet – I’m waiting for Easter – one more day in work and then 6 days off! Yippee… lots of chill time.

  11. buriedinprint

    One of the things that struck me about The Snow Child was how easily it read. Even though there are parts, especially near the beginning, that are very sad, and even when things get hard for them in the wilderness, there is something so compelling about the story that I never wanted to put it down. (BTW, I’ve added The Book of Flying to my TBR, Carl: it looks really neat.)

    • lynnsbooks

      It’s a really good story, you can feel the misery at the start, you almost want to shake the couple and make them talk to each other, but then they start to have a few more spontaneous moments and you can see they really love each other. The descriptions of Alaska were brilliantly done and I know what you mean about it being compelling. I really liked the way that I had doubts about who the Snow Child was – it was part fairy tale/part real and even at the end you’re not really sure!
      A really good book.
      Lynn 😀

  12. Natalie ~ the Coffee and a Book Chick

    I’ve heard this was a fabulous audiobook as well and I’ve put this into my wish list! Can’t wait to experience this one!

    • lynnsbooks

      I’d be interested to know what you think.
      Thanks
      Lynn 😀

  13. wildnightin

    I’ve heard a few people mention that it’s a good book, but the review makes it sound really cool. 🙂 I love books that stray between the ‘real’ world and the ‘fairy-tale’ one and this one looks as though it does that.

    • lynnsbooks

      Yeah, it starts a little slowly and it’s a bit grim at first but then this fairytale element creeps in and changes the relationship that the couple have and everything seems to be seen through different eyes. Great descriptions of Alaska as well.
      Lynn 😀

  14. Tanya

    This sounds very, very interesting. I’m definitely going to have to pick this up. Great review, and thank you! 🙂

    • lynnsbooks

      I do like stories about witches and I think this is well done although I did have a few critcisms (to be honest I usually have do have a couple). I do read quite a lot of YA though and this definitley falls into that bracket which isn’t of course for everyone.
      Lynn 😀

      • Tanya

        Oh, I have no problem with YA at all – just as long as it’s well written. Which, by your review, this seems to be. 🙂

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