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4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
The Snow Child: The Richard and Judy Bestseller
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on 5 September 2013
Based on a Russian fairytale about how a lonely old childless couple makes a child out of snow, the reader anticipates the sad ending from the first word, and yet he continues to read, because, just because, Mabel, the childless protagonist in Ivey's first novel, is all too aware of the fairy tale, and the reader, like her, wishes that this time, the outcome would be different.

Ivey's simple but descriptive prose brings the harsh environs of the 1920s Alaskan wilderness right out of the pages of the novel. One can almost hear the hush of the first snowfall on a winter's night, or the roar of the river in spring. When little Faina, with hair so blond it's white, magically appears in the lives of Jack and Mabel, it was the last thing they expected. They had come to this isolated place to leave a past sadness behind, and through Faina, they heal, even as their uneasy relationship with this mysterious child throws up more worries and uncertainties, as they traverse the uneasy boundary of caring too much for a child that's not theirs.

Perhaps why I felt that Ivey's story fails to rise to the heights suggested by the promising start, is the sheer length of the novel. For a story that is built on a premise that is so simple, the transition from Faina the little girl to young woman felt too prolonged and her persistent disappearance into the woods becomes tiresome rather than enchanting after a while. However, this is a hopeful tale, nonetheless, and worth a read.
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on 29 March 2017
A magical story interwoven with likeable real people in the beautiful and often harsh Arctic landscape? Or an engrossing realistic story with the interweaving of the magical? Either way a joy to read. I do not usually enjoy 'airy-fairy' tales. But here the balance between the real and the other-worldly simply enhance the tale of two people suffering a deep loss. Emotionally it moves the reader between the lows of the loss and the delightful highs of the 'found'. And all the characters are believable and likeable. Especially the ray of sunshine that is Esther! A book I shall probably read again.
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on 17 December 2012
This is an epic book, a love story and homage to the early settlers to the very edge of America, Alaska.

The story is set in the 1920's, when Alaska was truly the last bastion of the wilderness. The story focuses on Jack and Mabel, who have relocated to Alaska as part of a government initiative to tame the wilderness. Home steaders (farmers) are required to serve the needs of the mineral exploitation of the area. Mabel is a professor's daughter, educated, and Jack has a share in a family farm in Virginia. The decision to relocate away from family is prompted by Mabel, who lost her only child in childbirth, and, grief-stricken, is unable to bear living as part of a large extended family. Her idea is the she and Jack can move somewhere that they can be alone for the first time, and work hard to build something together. Jack agrees,which seems somewhat surprising initially, and sells his share in the family farm to generate a stake and provide capital.

The book opens during the first winter in Alaska, when their is bleak, short days, that seem to reflect the bleakness in Mabel's soul, and her profound and prolonged depression. Her vision of herself and Jack working together, close and companionable is far from the reality of carving out a life in Alaska. In despair, Mabel decides to kill herself, by crossing the thin ice of the river. She survives, and resolves to find a way to survive. With the next snowfall, in a moment of mad intimacy, she and Jack build a snow child, and Jack shows the sensitive and creative side that drew the professors daighter to him, by chiselling the face of a beautiful child. Throughout, you have a sense of magic that transcends them both. In the morning, the snow child is gone; shortly after, they start to se a small girl alone in the forest. Gradually, they entice her to spend time with them. Mabel becomes convinced she is the snow child of Russian fable, destined only to live in the coldest climes, and would die if she stayed with them through the summer, whilst is convinced she is the daughter of a dead trapper. The snowchild sustains them through their first winter, leaving them each summer before returning, a little older each time, but a wild thing of the forest. Jack and Mabel work together, secretly caring for the Snow Child, and all the time Mabel feels a sense of doom for this wondrous being in their lives. Finally, Mabel and Jack learn that sometimes getting your hearts desire can only happen through great loss.

The language of the book is evocative and beautiful, the descriptions of the landscape and it's wild beauty devastating in their grandeur; this is a land where long summer days mean an intensity of growth and fecundity, but where straying 10 feet off the path just outside your own door can mean death, a land where your own resources, what you can grow, shoot or trap are all you have, a land that grows stoic people who persevere. Interwoven into this magical land, the story of the Snow Child seems to affirm that the land will give you what you need when you want it most, be it a moose for meat, a long growing season, good neighbours - or a snow child.

The only minor irritation, and I understand why it was used, is speech by the snow child is distinguished from that of other characters by not using quotation marks. Whilst this whimsy accentuates the ethereal character, it is somewhat irritating at times. This novel is an impressive debut, and, a week after I have finished it, I am already thinking of reading it again.
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on 28 December 2016
I chose this rating for the shear joy of nature and survival in the wilderness. It was a mythical tale which left you unsure in the end. A delightful book for all.
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on 20 June 2017
I loved this book. It is like a fairy tale but for adults. I can't praise it highly enough. Just stunning.
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on 12 November 2017
What a beautiful story.
Could not stop reading. Magical. A story of pure unselfish love.. Constantly warms heart and soul.
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on 16 August 2017
This book is something special. Like a magical getaway from this world. I have been completely absorbed into the painted pictures. The very end took the breath out of me. Stumbled with awe, I am full of love for this story. This is a book that should not be read on the run, but in utter silence in order to dwell in the words.
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on 22 October 2017
Brilliant read!! Fascinating setting and unusual plot. Really enjoyed it!
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on 3 December 2015
Beautiful book that was recommended to me and I was delighted to find d it was such an easy yet thoughtful and emotional book. I could identify with both characters in some way. Really lovely book which is dark but at the same time light.that kerbs you guessing to the last page and after
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on 15 March 2017
A fable story for adults. Very well written and puts you right into the Alaskan landscape and the way of life at that time. It is just a wonderful book. Can't recommend it enough.
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