Charmingly whimsical, full of heart, in love with landscape
In her afterword first time author Eowyn Ivey recounts the sense that all her life she has been looking for a particular story:
For as long as I can remember, I have been looking for ‘my’ story…….I turned the pages (of everything she read) and searched for something that would fit this empty space inside of me
It is this sense of longing, and that a story can be more than itself which gives this book its flavour. Based on an Arthur Ransome retelling of an old Russian fairy story, Ivey’s The Snow Child speaks of the longing for children, the pain of their loss (whether through death or just the inevitable leaving behind of childhood) and, particularly the connection to landscape.
She sets her story in the Alaska of the 1920s where Mabel and Jack, a childless couple in their 50s have come, leaving the city to find quiet and make a connection with the reality of the land. So the book is also about a group of people who struggle with, and against, the harshness of an implacable, indifferent, stunningly beautiful landscape and climate. As much as the story of the relationships between parents and children, lovers and friends, the fierce independence of frontiers people, this is a story about our connection to the mythic as well as the actual, power and presence of the natural world.
This might not do for readers who prefer a more directly narrative writing. Ivey takes her time, finding the description of a snowflake as important as narrative drive – here, she diverges from her source, as plot is the essence of the faerie tale, which gets there in the shortest possible time.
If, on the other hand, you are still a reader of faerie and myth, well told, this should delight you with its charm and sweetness – NOT saccharine at all, but a genuine sweetness
As a complete aside, I wondered whether the author’s name was her birth name, or a nom-de-plume. And, if the former, whether given names mould character. Her name is so redolent of misty Gaelic or Olde Anglo-Saxon – I assume her parents may have been Lord Of The Rings afficionados. Perhaps an upbringing richly steeped in the telling of old tales shaped our author’s affinity for them!