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on 14 December 2017
I’m not a real fan of books with a fantasy or supernatural element. I do realise that statement will be anathema to an awful lot of people! However, if the story is well-told, has wonderful characters and a superb sense of place then I too can fall in love with a story which also has a mystical or supernatural component. As The Snow Child had those first three things (in abundance), I’m happy to say the aspect of the story which is in essence a retelling of a Russian folktale didn’t mar my enjoyment of the book overall.

Whether the child that appears following the construction of the snow girl by Mabel and Jack is a real girl or the snow girl come to life didn’t really become the focus of the book for me. What I really fell in love with was Mabel and Jack, their life together and the author’s depiction of the harsh but beautiful Alaskan landscape. I really loved that we get to see a relationship between two older people and that, despite the pressures of trying to eke out a living in the wilds of Alaska and their shared grief at not being blessed with a child of their own, there are still moments of tenderness between them. I grew fond of their idiosyncrasies such as Mabel’s habit of waiting until dinner was served before broaching a difficult subject (so Jack’s beans got cold again). And I loved their moments of playfulness – snowball fights, making snow angels, ice-skating, dancing.

The descriptions of the landscape of Alaska were really wonderful, conveying both its beauty, isolation and its dangers.

‘The sun was setting down the river, casting a cold pink hue along the white-capped mountains that framed both sides of the valley. Upriver, the willow shrubs and gravel bars, the spruce forests and low-lying poplar stands, swelled to the mountains in a steely blue. No fields or fences, homes or roads; not a single living soul as far as she could see in any direction. Only wilderness. It was beautiful, Mabel knew, but it was a beauty that ripped you open and scoured you clean so that you were left helpless and exposed, if you lived at all.’

There many other things I enjoyed about The Snow Child:
•The picture of daily life
•Esther and George – larger than life characters and true friends to Mabel and Jack
•The sense of community and the willingness of neighbours to come together when help is needed
•The sheer courage, resilience and determination of pioneers like Mabel and Jack, and Esther and George in attempting to carve out a living in such an unforgiving environment
•The celebration of ‘indoor’ skills like preserving, baking and sewing and ‘outdoor’ skills like trapping, tracking, foraging
•The wisdom of Mabel’s sister, Ada, in her letters:

‘We are allowed to do that, are we not…? To invent our own endings and choose joy over sorrow?’

‘In my old age, I see that life itself is often more fantastic and terrible than the stories we believed as children, and that perhaps there is no harm in finding magic among the trees.’

The Snow Child is a lovely book, full of magical moments and deserving of the praise it has received.
9 people found this helpful
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on 27 March 2017
I dithered a bit when deciding on the star rating for this book. I couldn’t decide between four or five stars.
The writing is absolutely stunning. Beautiful, evocative descriptions of the cruel but awe-inspiring Alaskan wilderness, combine with heartfelt and touching portrayals of two lovely, kind people who are frozen by the tragedy at the heart of their lives - a tragedy that has driven them away from everything they know to the wilds of Alaska, that sees them struggling to survive, but a tragedy that they don’t speak about, despite their obvious love for each other.
The writing is warm and the author’s love for her characters really comes through. And l loved the way that the traditional fairy tale was woven through the narrative so cleverly that even now I’m still not sure what was real and what wasn’t. And the snow child herself is exquisitely written - ethereal yet capable, fragile but tough, her story is beautifully told.
The only let down for me was that it was a bit long-winded in parts. The writing is gorgeous, but it still needs to be tightened in places. And that’s what had me wavering. But in the end, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this and was, at times, totally immersed in the world that the author so cleverly created. So it does have to be five stars.
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on 15 December 2017
I really enjoyed this book. It was refreshing and different from what I usually read. The story follows an older couple living in Alaska and their loneliness and the absence of children. The book has a really powerful beginning where we travel with the wife into her mind and her thoughts of despair at the life she is now leading. The writing is excellent and really draws you in. I was hooked from the first page and I found myself becoming Mabel. The story centres around Fainia the snow girl that Mabel and her husband made from snow and it is a poignant and beautiful read. I loved all the characters and found myself reading later into the night just to stay with the story. The author has a way with words that captured my attention and held it. I would definitely read more from this author.
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on 16 January 2017
I am big fan of anything related to the far north (in fact I've just finished reading this book whilst in Iceland) and this book has been quite magical in its scenic description. There is a prricularly lovely passage on seeing the northern lights too. I was really pleased this was written by someone who lives in Alaska and knows the seasons there so well, it felt true and timeless despite the occasional reference to the actual time it's placed.
I found this to be a bittersweet story, Eowyn Ivey weaves together the Russian fable with the story and I was left wondering many times - not wanting to give anything away so will say no more on that point!
It's about life, wanting and wishing for a child, and also love.
A really lovely read with a little bit of magic. Definitely a new author to watch.
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on 25 July 2017
Over the years many of my own books have been compared to “The Snow child” by Eowyn Ivey and so I have always meant to read this book and I, eventually, have. I have written many Faerie Tales, where a creature of Faerie interacts with the lives of “normal” humans to change them for the better or worse much as this tales does but that is where all comparison between myself and Ms Ivey ends. I love this book, sure it tells the old faerie tale and so is not based upon an original thought but that is where all similarities with the faerie tale stop.

Firstly this is beautifully written and well told, Ms Ivey can let loose the fanciful and stylish allusions, delightful descriptions and language when she wishes but mostly the book is restrained and she only lets her literary-self loose on occasion. This restraint makes the book flow better, makes it easy to read leading to an “unputdownable” book, so do not be surprised if you are still reading in “The wee sma hours”. I will not give you a summary of the book other than to say it is the old Russian "faerie tale" retold in 1920′s Alaska where an older couple that cannot have children build a girl of snow and she comes to life. The characters are believable, in parts the book made me recall “Miss Smilla’s feeling for Snow” and that is a high recommendation.
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on 3 May 2018
In some ways The Snow Child, with its frontier setting and focus on farming and struggling against the elements, recalls Laura Ingalls Wilder, yet because it's a retelling of a fairy tale, it also put me in mind of Angela Carter. If neither author appeals, it's unlikely you'll enjoy this, but as I'm a fan of both, I absolutely loved it. It transports the reader (or listener in my case - I heard it on audio) into a different world - 1920s Alaska, yet it's a place of timeless resonance. The novel is not a light read - it explores themes such as childlessness and loneliness, life and death and survival against the odds - but it's not depressing, because whilst it speaks of deep yearnings and loss, it also conveys the healing power of love and friendship.

A deeply resonant and moving story, beautifully written and full of magic and meaning.
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VINE VOICEon 21 August 2015
I had fairly low expectations of this book as I thought it would be very heavy on the description and that Alaska would overpower the story (which I expected to be a fantasy fairy tale - not my type of novel!!). In fact, I really can't remember why I bought this book at all. As soon as I started reading though I realised that I had been completely wrong.
Mabel and Jack have moved to Alaska for a fresh start in an attempt to deal with their inability to have children and the social pressure that has brought. It's the 1920s and the couple are in their fifties, so life is hard.
The writing is enchanting from the first page. Mabel's despair is laid out immediately and the tough environment is at the forefront of everything they do. The characters and plot are so strong that there is never any possibility of them being overpowered by their surrounding, they all just feed into each other.
It is clear that the author loves Alaska and she treats it in a matter of fact way to which it is easy to relate. At no point does she lean towards being too poetic or use too many metaphors, both of which would have turned me off straight away.
There is a strong theme of the fairy story which runs through the novel which won me over completely and charmed me. The plot moves at a cracking pace with plenty to keep readers involved with Mabel and Jack. The progression is fairly predictable but that adds the comfort of a familiar children's book. A clever balance is maintained between the magical child at the heart of the story and the harsh practicalities of surviving in the environment.
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on 13 January 2018
I was really hooked in by this book. I love storytelling and the way this book tells this story is magical. It really hooks you into what feels like a winter wonderland in all its harsh reality. I liked the interweaving of the fairy story into the fictional story of the couple in Alaska and the development of the characters. There are some beautiful descriptive parts which really paint the picture of the landscapes but also the harshness of living in Alaska in the 19th century. I had never read any of Eowyn Ivey's books before, but definitely want to read more now.
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on 29 January 2017
A magical, beautiful book. I was almost put off it by the reviews - some of which seem bizarrely vitriolic, given that it is after all just a book! Also, disappointed that several reviews suddenly, without warning, give away the plot.
However, I am glad I didn't let them put me off, though it was distracting knowing the plot before even starting to read it, thanks to those inconsiderate reviewers.
The author openly admits that the book draws heavily from a Russian fairy tale, even bringing that book into the story. Another reviewer seems to suggest she hid that fact, but no, she makes it abundantly clear throughout. I liked the mention of Arthur Ransome, the story of the lead character's history with the book, and how her own past intertwined movingly with the events the story portrays.
The descriptions of the Alaskan wilderness are stunning and take you deep inside their world. They're never boring as long descriptive prose can be: they're kept alive by the characters portrayed in the landscape, including the animals, trees, plants, the passing of the seasons.
Yes, there are some descriptions of trapping, killing, & gutting animals. As a non-meat-eater, I did skim over them but I wasn't offended by them. This is, after all, a story of honesteaders making their living from the land.
It is a story of survival, and then of thriving, of becoming part of nature, living in unity with the seasons. Alongside this story, is the slow integration of the snow child, Faina, into their lives. Her different relationships to the key characters bring out different threads of her story, and of theirs too. Very clever.
Whilst some reviewers complain that the story isn't realistic, I'm led to point out that that is surely the point?! It's a fairy tale. What some claim are disjointed or mismatched storylines are, in my view, deliberate ploys in order to let the reader make up their own mind.
For example, and this is a SPOILER ALERT!!
How can Faina, the snow child, have a real live father in the woods? My answer is a question too: could she not have died with him, but come back to life as the snow child? How did she manage to live in the real world in the summer of her marriage? In my view, her love sustains her, creates that power. It weakens her though, which is why we're led to the obvious conclusion. Her purpose in life was to create a living being from her own body - once that task was completed, she was gone.
The whole point is that we place our own meaning on the story, or own interpretation. That is the magic of The Snow Child.
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on 25 February 2018
A strange adult fairytale and not a particularly good one. I’m amazed that this book has attracted so many accolades. Really it’s a boring diatribe.
A childless couple in their 50s are attracted to the wilds of Alaska to set up a homestead. Having made a snowgirl one day, the showgirl ‘comes to life’. So begins this fable, which will never be a modern classic as the writing isn’t literary enough and the plot is daft.
I doubt teenagers would enjoy this as part of literature studies. However, the book has obviously appealed to some but forewarned is forarmed- don’t buy this if you’re expecting a riveting or fact filled read.
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